Tag Archives: food

Cross Channel Recipes

The Church Street Library twinning project has been focusing on food. We’ve held two recipe workshops with the English Speaking Club – each member brought a traditional recipe from their country of origin and wrote it out in English. I then translated them into French. They are being sent to Place des Fetes for display.

The English Speaking Club works on recipes for the twinning project

We’ve also held a children’s workshop. The children were asked to draw their favourite food into a paper plate. Fifteen children joined this activity and their fabulous work travelled by Eurostar (with me) a couple of weeks ago to be displayed at the Paris library.

          Children displaying their favourite food collages, ready to be sent to Paris for the twinning project           Children displaying their favourite food collages, ready to be sent to Paris for the twinning project         

Children displaying their favourite food collages, ready to be sent to Paris for the twinning project

Church Street Library is currently displaying a wide range of recipes, with print outs available to take away. There are some particularly tasty examples that have come directly from Bibliotheque Place des Fetes’s staff members’ kitchen, so come along to the library this month and pick up some recipes from around the world!

Finally did you spot us in the Guardian newspaper last week? ‘Tale of two cities: UK library twins with French counterpart‘.



English cookery or French cuisine?

Having shared photographs of Christmas decorations and customs with our Parisian ‘twins’, we have now moved on to a new topic for the French twinning project: Food!

We currently have a display in Church Street Library of famous French recipes, such as Beef Bourguignon, Crepes Suzette, French Onion Soup, Tarte Tatin, Ratatouille and Quiche Lorraine. Customers are able to take them home as they are all available in leaflet format.

In a couple of weeks, we will exchange personalised recommendations with our twin colleagues in Paris. Here’s an example of one Michaela’s favourites, with instructions in both English and French:

Michaela's Cheese and Onion Pasty recipe 

They will all be displayed and copied for the public.

In addition to that, we plan to hold two workshops with our English Speaking Club students about writing recipes. The Club’s recipes will also be sent to Place des Fetes library. In the meantime, Bibiotheque Place des Fetes is creating a book of French recipes with original etchings from their customers and we’ll have the pleasure to display it in our library.

So if you fancy trying something new and tasty, pop in to Church Street Library in the next few weeks for inspiration!


2014 – a year to remember

While 2013 was a good year for anniversaries, what with Doctor Who and the JFK conspiracy theories both celebrating their 50th birthdays and the crossword reaching its century, 2014 looks to be even more memorable. We’ll be posting lots about the centenary of the start of the First World War during the course of the year (and the Music Library’s Behind the Lines project is already well established), so let’s see what other anniversaries we have to look forward to in 2014.


Frost Fair held on the Thames, February 1814 (Image property of Westminster City Archives)While the Daily Express has predicted that this will be the worst winter for 60 years (just like it does every year), it is unlikely to be as cold (or as fun) as the winter of 1814 when the Thames froze over so solidly that an elephant was able to cross at Blackfriars. On 22 January a pig was spotted sailing down the river on a miniature iceberg. Sheep were roasted, stalls were set up and there was even an icy casino. You can read contemporary accounts of the last Frost Fair by logging into our newspaper archives using your Westminster library card.

Books about Charlie ChaplinFebruary

2 February brings the 100th anniversary of the film debut of Londoner Charlie Chaplin in Making a Living. More importantly though, a few days later on 7 February, Chaplin made his first appearance as the Little Tramp in Kid Auto Races at Venice. By the end of World War I, the boy who had grown up in poverty in Lambeth was one of the most famous people in the world. You can find out more about him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card).

Books about the Great EscapeMarch

We at Treasure Hunt Towers are big fans of World War II films and one of the finest is The Great Escape. The real Great Escape took place 70 years ago, on March 24/25 1944. As most readers will know, the attempted escape from Stalag Luft III ended in tragedy with the murder of fifty of the escapers, to the horror of the Luftwaffe as well as the Allies. Incidently, Donald Pleasance, who played the doomed forger, had himself been a POW in Stalag Luft I.

Alec GuinnessApril

2 April 2014 sees the 100th anniversary of the birth (in Maida Vale) of one of the greatest actors of all time, Sir Alec Guinness. Check out some of his films and autobiographical books and celebrate someone whose work ranged from Dickensian villains, through Popes, spies and inter-galactic superheroes but was never less than brilliant. And if you were too young to see him on stage, check out some reviews in our newspaper archives.


Many of us will have made new year resolutions and few will keep them going for long, but this year you might find some inspiration on 6 May when we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first Four Minute Mile by Roger Bannister. While the record itself was broken at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, Bannister did most of his training at the Paddington Track near St Marys Hospital where he worked. The track reopened in 2012 and is the home to the Serpentine Running Club. Check out the British Pathe site for news coverage of the event.

Robert Low's Scottish trilogyJune

Delving further into the past, 23 June is the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn when Robert the Bruce defeated the invading English army lead by Edward II.  Expect to hear a lot more about this in the run up to the Scottish referendum – impress your Caledonian friends with some research in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (and see if they know what Robert the Bruce died of…).


From 28 July onwards, remembrance of World War One will be foremost in all our minds – more of which in later posts.

Longitude by Dava SobelJuly also sees the 300th anniversary of the passing of the Longitude Act. This offered a prize of £10,000 to £20,000 for a method of calculating longitude and, as readers of Dava Sobel’s excellent book will know, the first person to succeed was John Harrison, a clockmaker who lived in Lincolnshire. His persistence and that of Rupert Gould (who restored Harrison’s timepieces) were the subject of a television film in 2000. Once again, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can tell you more, or you can visit the Royal Observatory to see Harrison’s clocks.


The Wizard of Oz2014 is the 75th anniversary of an exceptional year for cinema. 1939 saw the release of Gone with the Wind, Goodbye Mr Chips, Wuthering Heights and a particular favourite at Treasure Hunt Towers, The Wizard of Oz. There are many legends associated with this story (Is the book a parable of  the economic crisis of the late nineteenth century? Did a Munchkin die during its making?) But the most amazing story of all involved the coat worn by Frank Morgan who played the Wizard himself as well as Professor Marvel.

Jamie's DinnersSeptember

In addition to the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II (more of which in later posts), September 2014 sees the 60th anniversary of the opening of Kidbrooke School, the first purpose-built comprehensive. Now renamed Corelli College, it is perhaps better known as the place where Jamie Oliver fed the pupils his healthy school dinners and tried to start a revolution in school food.


Monty PythonExpect an outbreak of silly walks, dead parrots and a quartet of Yorkshiremen in October, as this is the month of the 45th anniversary of the first broadcast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Expect too some pedantry from devotees pointing out that the Four Yorkshiremen sketch was actually written for At Last the 1948 Show. With their new stage shows in July, this is certainly going to be the year of the Python so prepare to be bombarded with repeats, DVD reissues and endless interviews. Just sit back and enjoy…

The National LotteryNovember

On 20 November 1994, millions of people up and down the land crossed their fingers and thought “It could be me…” as they watched the first National Lottery draw. Nobody at Treasure Hunt Towers has ever been successful at picking the right numbers, but perhaps we’re in the wrong job. According to recent news reports, the luckiest profession to be in is office administration. You’d think we’d do better considering lotteries were invented by librarian (amongst other things) Giacomo Casanova.


And finally, 17 December sees the 25th anniversary of the first broadcast of The Simpsons, starring America’s favourite yellow family. Cowabunga!


Dreaming of Esther Rantzen

That is a very naughty headline.

Vegetables on display at Marylebone Library for World Food DayThe vegetables on the table were there to mark World Food Day, and there was really nothing comical about them. It’s just that an ignoramus of a certain age (me) couldn’t help being reminded of That’s Life, the TV show compered for 20 years by Esther Rantzen, which juggled serious journalism with nobbly veg and odd odes.

Checking if smoking is affecting your health, at Marylebone LibraryThe main emphasis of Marylebone Library’s health event (Thursday 17 October) was on smoking awareness. A chap from Central London Community Healthcare invited people to blow into his device. Not to catch out the early drinkers, you understand – this device would indicate whether your breathing was being affected by smoking, including passive smoking. If your smoking was of the active rather than passive variety, there was help on offer to quit.

No vegetables were injured during this event – unless you count the fact that they were divvied out afterwards, to appear later on the plates of several grateful recipients.


A hectic day at Marylebone Library

Not content with spending lots of time preparing for their forthcoming move, Marylebone Library staff decided to have an Open Day as well!

Marylebone Library Open Day, July 2013Despite the heat, there was a lively programme of events including Facial Reflexology Tasters, skilfully conducted by Nikke Ariff, who also gave a talk on ‘Healthy Meals on a Budget’.

Meanwhile, Rosalind Hobley was giving handy tips on how to take great photos of your children.

Later on, a Family Learning Workshop (provided by Westminster Adult Education Service) helped children to create magical puppets from simple materials; at the same time, heads were bent over pen and paper in the creative writing workshop (guided by Tanya from Westminster Writers Group).

As if that wasn’t enough, Betty and Dilwyn Bishop presided over a table of delicious-looking food for sale – everything was made by staff, relatives and friends.

Oh, there was a raffle, too. I didn’t win.


Handwritten history from Georgian kitchens

Westminster City Archives has today launched a new blog exploring the history of English cooking and the culinary landscape of Georgian London.

The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies blog will share recipes from a remarkable manuscript cookbook in Archives Centre’s collection. The book’s handwritten recipes span 150 years of British cookery, providing a fascinating insight into culinary craft of the 18th and 19th centuries.

18th and 19th century recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Image property of Westminster City Archives

18th and 19th century recipes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Image property of Westminster City Archives

The identity of the recipe book’s authors is a mystery, hence the blog’s unusual title. But there are some clues dotted about the cookbook, and we hope that our readers will play a part in helping us to trace the original compilers of the manuscript.

During our research into the Cookbook, we’ve been struck by the surprising parallels with today’s food fashions. There was an emphasis on the ‘fun’ of food, and on creating dishes to amaze and delight. Recipes for puddings of carrots, lumber pie and whipped syllabubs display innovations worthy of Heston Blumenthal.

There are also parallels with today’s ‘slow food’ movement. Kitchens drew largely on seasonal, locally-sourced produce, and as far as possible used food produced in their own smallholdings and gardens. The compilers of the Cookbook make their own cheese from freshly drawn milk, fearlessly stuff calves heads, and demonstrate considerable skill in butchery. They appear deeply connected with the food they eat and where it comes from.

A mackerel seller on the streets of early 19th century London. Image property of Westminster City Archives

A mackerel seller on the streets of early 19th century London. Image property of Westminster City Archives

The recipe book is also a launch pad for exploring the history of food in Westminster and the wider London area. Through the blog, we’ll recreate the sights, sounds and smells of London through its food industry and domestic kitchens, from the city’s famous street cries to the day-to-day life of the Georgian cook.

As part of the project, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves to try out some of the recipes in a modern kitchen. We’ll share our experiences on The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies blog. We hope you’ll get involved too, by giving the recipes a go in your own kitchens, and sending your photos of the results!


Happy New Year!

New Year, New Home for the Web Treasure Hunt
For nearly four years now, we have been posting regular website recommendations on our Web Treasure Hunt blog (see the first post from June 2007 for a bit of background). We’ve decided to incorporate the WTH posts within this bigger blog from now on, and this is the first. The archives of old posts with remain on the old site, and we’d like to welcome our old fans over to Books & the City. You can find all WTH posts on here within the Web Treasure Hunt category.

Chinese New Year. Image property of Westminster City Archives.3 February is the start of the 2011 Chinese New Year (the Year of the Rabbit  – it will apparently be peaceful, which is very welcome after the Year of the Tiger), so let’s see what there is on the Westminster Council website to help us celebrate!

First up is the Chinese New Year celebration in, well, Chinatown. If you go the Westminster Council homepage, just search for ‘Chinese New Year’. The first result takes you to the What’s On page which reveals that the New Year celebrations will be on Sunday 6 February. There’s also a link to the London Chinatown website which has plenty of information about what’s going on in the area and the traditions surrounding the event.

Incidentally, the fourth result in the same search is a handy calendar of religious festivals from the Westminster Faith Exchange.

Not everyone will be able to go to Chinatown so why not have a little Chinese New Year celebration of your own with some appropriate food? No, not a take-away but some proper Chinese home-cooking. Here the Westminster Libraries Gateway comes into its own. Go to the section on Home and Garden and click on Food and Drink. The first port of call is the BBC Food page, with Recipes. You can search by Occasion (there are 16 special recipes for Chinese New year), Cuisine (148 Chinese recipes) or by Chef – and for those of us of a certain age, Chinese chef means  Ken Hom who has 33 recipes listed ranging garlic chicken with cucumber to steamed ginger fish with egg-fried rice. Or you could do an Advanced Search to check out individual ingredients – pak choi or tofu or duck perhaps.

While you’re doing all this cooking, why not listen to some Chinese music to get you in the mood? Choose the Music category on the Gateway and go to the Naxos music library (you may be asked to type in your library card number). Use the drop-down link to Genres and there is a selection of Chinese music – orchestral as well as folk and traditional. Just create your own playlist and enjoy.

Have you discovered the British Library e-card collection yet? They have a set of three beautiful rabbit / hare images to choose from, so you can send New Year wishes to all your friends and save on paper too!

And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget that we have a Chinese Library on Charing Cross Road which has  knowledgeable staff and a collection famous throughout London and beyond.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!