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Greengage Summer

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When I was asked to illustrate a piece for In Search of Taste about food writer Penny Averil falling in love with French cuisine, I knew I had to incorporate text from one of my favourite novels – A Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden.


“As for many of my generation, my first visit abroad was to France. Moon-like schoolgirl face, scratchy dowdy clothes, vaguely informed of frightening possibilities of garlic, wine and runny cheese,”  


When I read Penny’s opening paragraph I was instantly reminded of Godden’s coming-of-age story. The Heroine, Hester, and her three siblings arrive in France in their flannel uniforms unable to distinguish the smell of garlic that the hotel’s kitchen boy reeks of. They are unprepared for the transition from awkward teenagers to knowing young women, and, like Penny, the dazzling French cuisine that Godden describes represents a departure from stuffy British values to embrace continental sophistication and excitement.


I included a still from the screenplay of Greengage summer, along with extracts from ‘French Provincial Cooking,’ the book that Penny references, and a title page from an American-influenced 1960s cookbook in the same garish colours, to represent the contrasting influences on British cuisine that she describes –


“Bugger off all the stews, cakes and pies which were the staple diet of Albion, let’s have some gammon with tinned pineapple, let’s grill some fish and pour a tin of Campbell’s cream of mushroom over it. Sod the egg custard, I’m whipping up some Angel Delight. Not in the kitch-ens of France you’re not.”


I tried to reference the same post-war context that Penny describes with zeplins crossing the page and a found-photograph of a war-time bride signing her wedding certificate. I hope that they contrast with more romantic, delicate images to mirror the contrasts she brings to life in her feature.


“Just as peasants, hallucinating though hunger, see the Holy Mother hovering over a haystack, did we find succour for our drained, exhausted battered post-war palates in the food of France?”


Penny Averill, In Search of Taste

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