As a fan of the PBS series Downton Abbey, I really and truly wanted to love The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook. After all, quite a lot of the series takes place in the dining room or during tea, and I love to read about different culinary traditions. However, the book seemed a little slapped together, didn’t have a lot to do with the show, and had some painfully contrived recipe intros that left me a little disappointed.
It was interesting to learn a bit about the way food was served (and I do mean a little bit, I was hoping for more about the hows and whys of service) and how the courses were set up. The book includes recipes from each commonly served course, none of which jumped out at me as being particularly out of the ordinary or inspiring. I mean, scones are inspiring, but I wasn’t inspired to make the scones from the book more than any other. That may have been due to the surprising lack of pictures.
Each recipe has an introduction that attempts (often painfully) to draw some connection between the dish and the show. After reading some of them, I started wincing every time I turned the page.
One positive aspect were the notes appended to some of the recipes about etiquette or history. The author perhaps anticipates the series continuing into further time periods because some of the notes were not quite tied to the time period of the show thus far, but I found many of them interesting. For example, I was taught that to hold your pinky finger out from your cup is affected and not good manners, but in tea shops in America you are often told the opposite (at least, that has been my experience). I was interested to find out that in Edwardian England the crooked pinky was not good manners, and so I felt vindicated in an odd, born-at-the-wrong-place-and-time sense.
Overall, I felt that The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook wasn’t an authoritative book on the time period or on Edwardian cuisine, so I can’t really recommend it unless you are the sort of die-hard fan who reads everything you can get your hands on about the show. If you’ve read better books about Downton Abbey or the timeframe, I’d love to hear your suggestions!
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