from soup to nuts

And things to do with flowers.


Take a big eel, clean and wash it two or three times in water, and then once in vinegar. Put it to boil in a saucepan together with two onions scorched on the fire, one or two bay leaves, a sliced carrot, a few pieces of celery and fennel, pepper and salt. Boil for about two hours, then rub liquid and all through a sieve, seeing theat the flesh of the fish passes well through. Put it on the fire, adding a piece of butter and a spoonful of tomato sauce. Serve hot with small pieces of toast.


Take out the kernels of half a pound of pistachio nuts, beat them in a mortar with a spoonful of brandy and put them into a tossing-pan with a pint of cream and the yolks of two eggs finely beaten. Stir it gently over a slow fire till it is thick, but do not let it boil. Put it into a soup plate, and when it is cold, stick some kernels—cut longways—all over it.


Half a pound of sugar, a cup of water and half a pound of fresh red carnations. Crush in a mortar the tops of the carnations, seeing that you use only the red part. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and boil to a syrup, add the crushed carnations and boil very slowly till they are in a pulp. Stir well and pour into little cups. (This compote is very useful for people of cold temperament.)

From Venus in the Kitchen, by Norman Douglas, 1952, Bloomsbury

4 thoughts on “from soup to nuts

    1. I’d only chance eating it if I’d grown the carnations myself. Hmm… something to think about for the edible end of the garden this year. How many carnations make half a pound? Or even a quarter pound for that matter?? I may have to open a carnation farm. Then sell the compote at markets. I may have to move. But where? What is the best climate for carnations? And when will I write?? (See what you’ve started…) :)))

  1. That would be wise, growing the carnations yourself. Nor will you have to move. Carnations grow very well in Ont. My mother had a whole row in the garden. As for how many make half a pound, you could buy a cheap kitchen scale. Failing which, I’ve walked into stores where I regularly buy food and tell them I need to use the scale for a sec–for example, when I make an Austrian dumpling recipe and need 400 grams of bread. I set a loaf of “pain belge” (the closest texture to a kaiser that I’ve found in Montreal) on the scale and thank the clerk very much. No one has ever refused me yet. Of course, all this is time-consuming and you might want to keep your time for writing, taking pictures, and reading fanciful recipes.

    1. I will happily make time for the food-store-scale finagle! (clever) And you remind me that I still have to make some dumplings… (I’d better hurry; I see them as winter food; not at all compatible with carnations.) ;D

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