Friday, September 10, 2021

Vintage Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Child by Angela Carter

Every now and again I come across a post in my archives that I think it would be fun to share again and when that happens I post them as Vintage posts!

When I was doing my Six Degrees of Separation post last weekend, I came across this post from 10 years ago, and I decided that this would be a great post to share again, especially seeing as I relistened to this short story again and still enjoyed it!

This was part of a series of short stories that were released with authors reading short stories. A lot of these authors were people I was unfamiliar with, both the authors and the readers.

The podcasts were, in order:

Philip Pullman reading The Beauties by Anton Chekhov
Julian Barnes reading Homage to Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway
William Boyd reading My Dream of Flying to Wake Island by J G Ballard
Anne Enright reading Fat by Raymond Carver
Colm Toibin reading Music at Annahullian by Eugene McCabe
Margaret Drabble reading The Doll's House by Katherine Mansfield
Jeanette Winterson reading The Night Driver by Italo Calvino
Rose Tremain reading Extra by Yiyun Li
Tessa Hadley reading The Jungle by Elizabeth Bowen
Helen Dunmore reading My Oedipus Complex by Frank O'Connor
Ali Smith reading A Conversation with my Father by Grace Paley
Helen Simpson reading The Kitchen Child by Angela Carter

It is the final story in this list, and my favourite of the 12,  that I want to concentrate on for my Weekend Cooking post this week.

When I mentioned that I hadn't heard of all of the authors, both Helen Simpson and Angela Carter were in this category. From what I can tell by what I have read online Helen Simpson is a short story writer herself, and Angela Carter was known for her fairytale retelling. From what is said it seemed that Carter's fairytale retellings can be somewhat dark and gothic, featuring werewolves and other magical creatures and wikipedia mentions that her works include feminism, magical realism and science fiction.

From the little I knew this short story was not anything like I expected. It is light and frothy, but still with substance, sunny, charming and funny, and well worth spending a few minutes to listen to.

The story is about a young boy whose mother is a cook in a large house. He doesn't know who his father was. All he knows is that he was conceived whilst the lobster souffle his mother was cooking rose ("25 minutes in a medium oven") but the identity of his father remains a mystery. Each year at the time of the grouse shoot, his mother once again cooks the souffle although she doens't overseason it with cayenne as she did that first time due to the shock of being accosted in her kitchen. The boy ("conceived upon the kitchen table, born upon the kitchen floor") is desperate to know who his father was. In this short story we shares his childhood in the kitchen from his birth, his first crib (the copper salmon kettle), the baths in the soup tureen that normally carries turtle soup. The child is precocious, learning the skills of the cook with ease at the foot of his mother. He learns his letters (A for Asparagus through to Z is for Zabligione), makes shortcrust at the age of three, and so on.

Also alluded to in the course of the story are the different levels of the household servants within the big house and the masters who don't seem to have terribly good taste when it comes to food. There is the housekeeper who seems to take her rum with a splash of tea, and who would love to replace the Yorkshire woman who is the cook with a continental chef, with the birth of the cook's baby appearing to be the perfect opportunity, but it doesn't work out that way at all.

I have now listened to this particular short story a number of times now, it doesn't lose it's charm with familiarity. If you have a few minutes spare, I would encourage you to click on link above and lose yourself for just a few minutes in the kitchen of the great house.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. What cool idea to bring out vintage posts when you've been reminded of them. I've heard of many of the authors (both readers and writers) but only a couple of the stories. I may have to add a few to my listening queue.

    1. I hope you do BFR, especially this one which was a lot of fun.

  2. Dear Marg, How very much fun to have these links. Thanks for sharing at Weekend Cooking.

  3. I love the idea of vintage posts! It would be interesting to hear Colm Toibin read, I like his books.

    1. I've done a few now Tina!It is often interesting reading back through my archives! There are lots of things I have forgotten about!



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