Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, sometimes I crave a square of dark chocolate and  I'm very partial to caramel like buttery coffee flavours but that is it. My only real sweet nemesis is Tart Tatin; generally though I prefer savoury things, particularly cheese.  I have railed against the cupcake obsession in vintage circles before, largely because I find sponge cake dull (although butter cream is a wonderful thing) so I am not the biggest sweetie fan in the world. I do love tea, I do love sarnies and I do love a bit of ceremony though...


It might be expected that a book about holding a vintage tea party would be a) obsessed with mimsy little cakes b) full of sugary illustrations involving roses and doilies and c) unbearably twee. Angel Adoree’s new book ‘The Vintage Tea Party’ is none of these.
It is however a very pretty book, but with more of an Alice in Wonderland aesthetic emphasised by scratchy elegant linear illustrations with more than a smidgen of the surreal. Foxes, magpies and owls roam around the pages and this, along with the re-occurring icon of a fob watch gives the book a slight steampunky  feel. Yes there are the totems of modern vintage a plenty here but the effect is more charming whimsy than saccharine tweeness.  So what we have here is the modern take on vintage but with a well shod kick to it. This is perhaps because the author is not really so much jumping on a bandwagon as riding up front on a circus train. Some of you may recall her appearance on Dragon’s Den, she has subsequently set up a successful business; the‘Vintage Patisserie’, no mean feat in the current economic climate. I have tasted some of her wares which were delicious. This is not a dilettante but someone who makes her living out of the business of vintage themed events.
No pastel colours and not a polka dot in sight...

Cookery books these days seem to either be selling the personality of the author or a lifestyle. To some degree this tome does both. I was charmed by the pictures of the author’s family in East London and her very personal description of her (non standard) route into the world of catering. Some might find this approach a bit too individual but I appreciated it feeling that it made the reader feel like they were sharing someones enthusiasms. This was further exemplified by the long list of thank you’s at the end of the book.  In as far as it is selling a ‘lifestyle’ the whole vintage thing is very popular at the moment but  the author seems to be encouraging a home-made approach rather than the wholesale aspirational commercially acquisitive tack taken by other food writers. The book includes a stencil (of a young queen Liz) and invitation designs that can be copied plus lots of advice but none that requires an expensive trip to John Lewis’ kitchen shop for 'essentials'.
The book's pages on coddled eggs.
Although the book is lifestyle orientated and contains lots of general ‘vintage’ advice ultimately it is a cook book and this is the nitty gritty and the real context in which it should be judged. My initial opinion is that many of the recipes appear to be simple, do not require great amounts of expensive ingredients and look delicious, it is well illustrated with good photographs. I am not a beginner when it comes to baking but I think a beginner could manage many of the dishes. At the same time there are some unusual rmore demanding  dishes and some highly imaginative ones, I was particularly taken by the recipes for beetroot and artichoke maracas and black coffee canes which I'd like to have a go at. I would like to recommend to some of my gothier friends the recipe for a 'salad cemetery'.  There are also a number of recipes for forgotten foods, one of these, and an old favourite of mine is coddled eggs. These are basically eggs poached in little steamers and then tipped out so they resemble small pert eggy puddings. Anything can be added to flavour them, they are a cheap delicious nursery snack. The author could start demanding royalties from Royal Worcester if sales of china egg coddlers take off! My own tip for these is to line the coddler with buttered toast and add some cheese and bacon! The book takes a holistic approach and includes recipes for smoothies and alcoholic beverages whilst the photographs provide ideas for attractive presentation.

I feel that this is a  good useful cook book wrapped in a confection of 'vintage' but that vintage here could be as much addressed to the past generally. It reminded me of the recent spate of television programmes reminding us of the wit and imagination applied to celebratory food of the past. It will suit the new fan of ‘vintage’ but there is a lot to please the gothically inclined and those who simply want to escape from the ubiquitous cup cake and produce sweets and savouries with a little more oomph, taste and creativity. One of the reasons why, I think the whole interest in the past has mushroomed recently. If we have to put up with riots, tedious politicians and corporate dullness in much of modern life why not make a teatini or some Hibiscus champagne?

I enjoyed the books determined Englishness and rather breathless quality. Most particularly though I think I would enjoy the food.  This book would make a lovely gift, and one that will help an independent small business to thrive.  It is a pleasant change to see a cook book that is not produced on the back of massive restaurant chains, or television series or supermarket tie-ins. Having said that, I suspect Angel’s particular brand of vintage catering might make quite good telly, not least because like all the best ladies she has  vivid red hair! 

xx

The Vintage Tea Party Book is available from Amazon.

8 comments:

Helen Highwater said...

Oooh, thanks for this review! I haven't bought it yet as I thought it might be all cupcakes (and I've got the Hummingbird and Primrose cake books already). But this sounds really interesting.

Buy jove, I MEAN TO HAVE IT!

Lena said...

Lovely review and thanks for your tip of lining the coddler with buttered toast. I'm already a convert to coddling thanks to the book and can't wait to try out your toast version!

LollyWillowes said...

I have this, it was given me by a friend. It is rather nice and not at all twee. I really do love the line drawings, elegant too.
I love cake but cupcakes make me want to scream, I think it's the over the top, sickly stuff on the top. I'll stick to good old fashioned British buns with a cherry on top type!

LandGirl1980 said...

So pleased I read your review. If you have voted it as un-twee - then it MUST be worth a butchers! Thanks!

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