The Cafe Below St Mary-Le-Bow - and the Guildhall Library's magnificent collection of cookery books

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

St Mary-le-bow is the home of the Bow Bells, so says my book of London Lore.

The Bow Bells are quite an audible landmark here. John Minsheu is quoted in the OED as having defined a Londoner as someone "who is born within the sound of Bow Bells". That was way back in 1671. I wasn't born within the sound of the bells, but I distinctly remember the name - after a bit of reading, my persistent memory can be attributed to my fondness for rhymes and jingles. That's because The Great Bell of Bow is one of the big 'uns in the nursery rhyme oranges and lemons.

And so, last week, the East End WI visited St Mary-le-Bow to marvel at its architecture, to admire the bell, and to take tea in the crypt.

As you do.

We enjoyed sourdough toast and tea/coffees various at The Cafe Below St Mary-le-Bow. The service was a bit slow, but the atmosphere is rather lovely and the company was excellent.

Colleen, you should know, is rather brilliant. Our coffee morning included an expedition to the Guildhall Library where she had arranged for Peter Ross, head librarian and foodie extraodinaire, to take us through the library's extensive cookery book collection and history.

We oohed and aahed.

We learnt.

By the by, I particularly love this picture. Beware Pedestrians.

We zipped through the nation's history of cookery books. We touched well-loved pieces of history. I learnt about Eliza Acton (I had encountered her as a poet, but never as an expert on household management and cooking!) and Mrs Marshall's Ices.

I think all cookbooks should include a section on Whip Syllabubs.

After our fabulous and fascinating talk on cookery books old and new, we were allowed down into the depths of the archives. Oh, how I miss the smell of archives and old books!

There were some amazing titles down there.

This particular book included recipes for love potions, powders and philtres as well as aromatic oils and waters, and the recipes for famous cosmetics. A modern book of secrets!

I'm really really enjoying my little work vacation. One week left: I plan on doing a lot of sewing.

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