Open­ing the ar­chives: Eve­lyn Rose’s mem­o­ries

The JC’s for­mer food editor still wields huge in­flu­ence. Now her ar­chive is at the Guild­hall Li­brary

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY VIC­TO­RIA PREVER

THERE’S A rea­son most of us have an Eve­lyn Rose cook­ery book — apart from the ex­cel­lence of her recipes. The doyenne of Jewish cook­ing, who died aged 77 in 2003, worked in­cred­i­bly hard. Dur­ing her work­ing life she gen­er­ated shelves and shelves of ma­te­ri­als: JC columns; notes for tele­vi­sion and ra­dio appearances; ar­ti­cles for other pub­li­ca­tions; notes of re­search trips, drafts of her 14 books and more notes for her roles for other food in­sti­tu­tions.

“Her work filled two en­tire walls of wall-to- ceil­ing shelves in her of­fice” says her daugh­ter, Judi Rose, her­self a food writer. Twenty card­board boxes full of these papers were do­nated by Judi and her broth­ers David Rose and Alan Rose, to Lon­don’s Guild­hall Li­brary af­ter their fam­ily home in Manch­ester was sold in Oc­to­ber 2016. (Their fa­ther, Myer, had passed away in Fe­bru­ary 2014.)

The col­lec­tion (which took sev­eral months to cat­a­logue) launches next week, with a re­cep­tion catered by Panzer’s. “Their chef will be cook­ing some of her recipes in­clud­ing her lus­cious lemon cake, baba ghanoush and frit­tata” says Judi.

I met prin­ci­pal li­brar­ian Peter Ross for a sneak pre­view at the li­brary, which houses the largest col­lec­tion of food, drink and cook­ery books in the UK. It’s the go-to re­source for any­one re­search­ing food and drink his­tory and Rose’s work rightly sits along­side English foodie roy­alty such as El­iz­a­beth David.

De­scend­ing into the vaults of the build­ing, the fusty smell of old books whisked me straight back to my uni­ver­sity re­search days. Rose’s books and papers sit in il­lus­tri­ous com­pany. The li­brary (open for pub­lic ref­er­ence and funded by the City of Lon­don Cor­po­ra­tion) is home to more than 200,000 books dat­ing from the 15th cen­tury. It in­cludes some of the finest col­lec­tions of his­tor­i­cal re­sources in the coun­try, cov­er­ing so­cial and lo­cal his­tory and in­clud­ing ma­te­rial on the his­tory of agri­cul­ture, re­tail­ing, brew­ing, do­mes­tic science.

Ross was happy to wel­come the Eve­lyn Rose col­lec­tion. “I al­ready knew about Eve­lyn Rose — she was fa­mous in the cook­ery world. I thought she would com­ple­ment El­iz­a­beth David’s col­lec­tion, which we also house here. We con­cen­trate on Bri­tish food so Bri­tish Jewish food worked well for us”.

What struck me on see­ing the neatly stacked shelves of card­board files and fold­ers bear­ing her name, was the sheer scale of what she had pro­duced. You clearly don’t get to be a doyenne with­out a bit of hard graft.

She kept notes on ev­ery­thing. Var­i­ous re­search trips abroad to coun­tries in­clud­ing Amer­ica, Bel­gium, China, Crete, Cyprus, Thai­land and Switzer­land con­tained a typed up itin­er­ary along with each note, pam­phlet or menu from that trip, num­bered and in­dexed. Her level of or­gan­i­sa­tion puts me to shame!

Her JC columns and recipes are there in their en­tirety.

“She never missed a sin­gle one in 50 years” says Judi. I picked up a box and found her typed list of JC food columns for 1963. She clearly fol­lowed the sea­sons, pro­duc­ing as­para­gus recipes in May, straw­ber­ries in June and so on.

There was even a cau­li­flower salad — and we thought the cur­rent cru­cif­er­ous craze was in­vented re­cently by Is­raeli chefs. Per­haps they are not as in­no­va­tive as we think.

Rose also man­aged to cre­ate kosher dishes us­ing flavours from her trav­els, whilst keep­ing tra­di­tion­al­ists happy with just enough Ashke­nazi in­flu­ence.

It’s an in­sight into Jewish kitchens of the era. On Septem­ber 6 1963 she shared how to make chal­lah. The rest of that month was all about the chagim: mar­ble cake; wine cake and quick kichels for Septem­ber 13; for Septem­ber 20 — yom tov week­end cook­ing, with recipes for car­rot tsimmes, lok­shen pud­ding and braised bola. The last is­sue of the month was en­ti­tled ‘Fast­ing Wisely and Well’ — still a cur­rent ob­ses­sion — along­side recipes for crunchy ap­ple crisp and meat kre­plach.

It’s also in­ter­est­ing to see how much Rose did out­side the Jewish com­mu­nity, tak­ing Jewish food into the main­stream. Be­fore she joined the JC, she had pre­sented a tele­vi­sion pro­gramme about how to make Jewish food. She was a reg­u­lar on Ra­dio 4’s Woman’s Hour and wrote for De­can­ter, the wine mag­a­zine.

She was the first woman pres­i­dent of the Meat and Live­stock Com­mis­sion and worked for other in­dus­try bod­ies like the But­ter In­for­ma­tion Coun­cil. She fronted a cam­paign for Am­brosia creamed rice pud­ding. “She was not above us­ing her chil­dren as props — Alan and David were seen on tele­vi­sion tuck­ing into their bowls of rice pud­ding,” laughs Judi.

Eve­lyn had var­i­ous cor­po­rate clients for whom she wrote recipes and demon­strated prod­ucts. Dur­ing the 1970s she demon­strated Cad­bury’s Smash (dried in­stant mash) and wrote her­self a note — at­tached to a recipe leaflet for Smash — re­mind­ing her­self when demon­strat­ing to al­ways ‘Re­fer to Cad­bury’s Smash’ and “Don’t say ‘add but­ter to im­prove the flavour’”.

“She was a real en­tre­pre­neur. In the days when women were stay­ing at home, she was con­stantly gen­er­at­ing new busi­ness” says Judi.

So de­tailed are the notes that I feel al­most voyeuris­tic to be leaf­ing through her metic­u­lously typed papers.

The col­lec­tion will serve to pre­serve our foodie her­itage — what we were eat­ing and the way we were cel­e­brat­ing fes­ti­vals. It ev­i­dences why Eve­lyn Rose won her ti­tle as our grand bal­a­boosta but also how far she took the Jewish menu — light­en­ing stodgy dishes of the Ashke­nazi menu and dot­ting them with the colour and flavours of warmer climes.

In do­ing this, she fore-shad­owed the full-on Sephardi/Ashke­nazi mash up that we now see on plates around the world. As the JC’s cur­rent Food Editor, I’m proud to be her suc­ces­sor.

Eve­lyn Rose at home and at work in her kitchen

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