Good Taste

Written by Caroline Scott
Review by Kate Pettigrew

In the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1932, Stella Douglas is a jobbing writer for a women’s magazine and the author of a poorly selling biography of Elizabeth Raffald, an 18th-century cookery writer. She’s staying near her father after the loss of her mother, and both are grieving. When she gets summoned to her publisher in London, she fears her plans for her next book on another cookery writer will be scuppered—and they are. Her publisher wants her to write a wide-ranging history of English food.

Stella realises that it’s very hard to define English food, as it’s very influenced by other countries and (in 1932) it’s pretty beige: bread, oatcakes and potatoes. She hopes for help from her friend Michael, a chef in London towards whom she is attracted. But it appears there is competition for Michael’s affections from his flatmate, the handsome Lucien, and from a former life model, the glamorous Cynthia. But on a fact-finding trip to Banbury Stella’s car breaks down and she is rescued by the improbably handsome Freddie.

How these characters’ lives meld, and how Stella comes to terms with the choices she makes for her future, are the subject of Caroline Scott’s delightful novel, a great snapshot of life at a time of recession. I particularly enjoyed the humour of the letters Stella is sent after advertising in newspapers for local dishes and the poignancy of her reading her late mother’s cookbook/diary. A wide-ranging book, as sweet as hot chocolate, sharp as gin and tonic and rewarding as a good Sunday lunch.