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Petits Propos Culinaires


PPC does not exist to chalk up ‘scoops’; but in the course of more than two decades it has proved to be an effective pioneer in its chosen fields of study and scoring many ‘firsts’.

Alexandra Hicks gave the first authoritative published account of the identity of the pink peppercorns which had become a fad in the 1980s. In PPC 10.
Jennifer Stead was the first to reveal the extent to which the famous cookery author Hannah Glasse (The Whole Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,1747) plagiarised an earlier cookbook, The Whole Duty of a Woman, and others. The painstaking research by Stead has become a model for others working on the history of cookery books (which of course affect the history of cooking). In PPC 13 and 14.
The first ‘story’ in Europe about the Californian craze for cooking on car engines appeared in PPC 39.
Marjorie Cohn revealed the original source of Fearing Burr’s ‘snails, caterpillars and worms’, as garnish for salads, in PPC 27.
Alan Davidson revealed the existence of a British Government cookbook, which appears to have been discussed by the British Cabinet and to have had an input from Mrs Thatcher about the use of dishcloths. In PPC 40.
Fiona Lucraft, following in Jennifer Stead’s steps, provided the first exposure of John Farley as an 18th century cookbook ‘author’. She showed that of his 800 plus recipes all but one were pinched from earlier books, notably that by Mrs Raffald. Possibly the worst of all the many instances of plagiarism in the 18th century. Lucraft exposed in detail the techniques by which Farley (in reality, a hack called Richard Johnson who, it has since been learned, was paid a total of just over 40 to do the job for him, and to attend to later editions) tried to cover his traces. The revelations are in PPC 42 and 43 (and, for Johnson, PPC 58).
Alan Davidson, Anissa Helou & Helen J Saberi, revealing the botanical identity of ‘bois de Panama’, the spice which is the basis of natif (the ‘cream’ served with Lebanese pastries). See PPC 47, 48 and 49.
The first comprehensive history of Trifle, that most popular of English (indeed British) desserts, includes its appearance elsewhere in Europe (Zuppa inglese in Italy) and in other continents (North America, Australia). By Helen J Saberi, in PPC 50.
The most wide-ranging study of the use of jelly in English cuisine from early medieval times to the present, by Peter Brears, whose lectures and demonstrations on the subject have attracted international attention, appeared in two instalments in PPC 53 and 54.
An essay, by Su-Mei Yu, about what is probably the earliest published collection of recipes for Thai cookery, which she had picked up for a song in a Bangkok street market, came out in PPC 58.
The first translation of an important early Chinese culinaary text (The Cloud Forest Hall Collection of Rules for Drinking and Eating, composed by Ni Tsan in the 14th century) by Teresa Wang and Professor E N Anderson. In PPC 60.
Results of what seems to have been the first serious enquiry, by a group of PPC detectives, into the life and work of ‘Olivia’, author of some charming books on cookery in Burma in the 1930s. Also in PPC 60.
Elucidation of the history of summer pudding. In the summer of 1999 this still counts as ‘work in progress’, but already the efforts of several PPC detectives (notably Audrey Levy, Elizabeth Driver, Helen J Saberi) have pushed the origins of this delightful dessert far back beyond ‘the 1930s’, which was previously thought to be the period of origin. The latest revelations are in PPC 61.