I have just finished Tabitha in the Moonlight by Betty Neels. Oh the clothes. Oh the food — Oh Tabitha…
Being relatively new to the Betty Neels experience, (i think I’m about 8 books in) I have not quite adjusted to the whole main character-with-the-name-of-a-pet. (I have had a Trixie, a Caro and an Abagail…)
My previous experiences of Tabitha as a character was from ‘The Tabitha Stories’ by A N Wilson, illustrated by Sarah Fox Davies (her artwork is gorgeous btw..) and Tabitha; from grainy re-runs of Bewitched that I used to watch after school, with tall glasses of milk and milo (a culinary delight for anyone under the age of 12) and fistfuls of Arnott’s cookies.
But one should embrace new experiences, and I am always willing to adapt – so Nurse Tabitha it is.
The new covers of Betty Neels books, featuring simplistically beautiful Scandinavian-esque water colours which I immediately tried to see if i could collect and buy somewhere, give very little indication of the storyline… however the earlier publications feature our stereotypical Rich Dutch Doctor and a lovely profile of Tabitha looking oh-so-sweet and not a bit plain in her nurses cap and scandal(!) people in swimsuits!
I have to say – Neels writes food porn oh-so-well – in this sort of matter of fact, but deceptively descriptive way, that makes you subconsciously pine for french named cuisine, large sweet sherries and boiled eggs with toast. I have found myself disdaining chicken and looking for lamb cutlets and and things that are glazed in buttery sauces…
And to be honest, if i went through all of them – like the pedantic side of me desperately wants to – we would be here forever…
So I resolve to pick two (2) particulars* out of the book and see if we can wrap this up by next Tuesday…
Particular 1: Oh the food…
‘they ate ratatouille, which Tabitha had never heard of, followed by roast duckling stuffed with prunes, and finally a dessert of fresh pineapple filled with a delicious concoction of almonds and bananas and whipped cream, lavishly awash with rum, and because Marius said it was a celebration, although he declined to say of what, they drank champagne.’
And after they had coffee as well –
I have this fascinating and rather large French cook book called The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan which has become my go-to cookbook (along with The Illustrated Escoffier) for all things Frenchy and the ratatouille recipe in that is the one I have excerpted here.
Willan also suggest using up leftover Ratatouille in a dish that pleasantly reminds me of Heuvos Rancheros: Oeufs au Plat a La Ratatouille (or more prosaically known in English as Baked Eggs with Ratatouille – how much more romantic is the French?)
Pepe La Pew: case in point.
Next: Roast Duckling Stuffed w/ Prunes
The closest thing i could find was gastronomydomine’s Roast Duck w/ Prune & Pancetta Stuffing, which to use her quote: makes a spectacular and plump-making meal, splitting one medium-sized duck between two people- and I thought how perfect that would be for Tabby and Marius…you can access the recipe here
Lastly: Fresh Pineapple filled w/ Almonds, Bananas & whipped cream – alas – the internet severely let me down completely on this — no amount of searchings brought up anything that wasn’t inside of a cake tin — BUT – i remembered i had this ridiculously quirky Golden Circle promotional recipe book called rather aptly: ‘Golden Circle Tropical Recipe Book’ I think from the 1960s, it was one of those books you had to save up coupons from Golden Circle cans, and send away for with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
It has the kitschiest recipes including, but not limited to:
- Liver n Bacon Tropic Style
- Fish & Pineapple Loaf
- Pineapple Toad in the Hole…
And there, in between Wanderlust and Smuggler’s Surprise is a dessert called Sea Urchin, that sounds similar-ish to the one Tabby & Marius ate – if it was on tripping out on LSD…
But toning it back, using fresh pineapple, fresh cream and sans the jelly bean smile – it could be quite close! Though, IMO – i would have LOVED to see them both tucking into this one – how would suave and perfectly pressed, silk-shirted Marius manage the drippy ice-cream??
Particular 2: Oh the clothes…
Dress like a Betty:
‘she put on a plainly cut peach coloured linen dress and covered it with a raincoat, as Marius hadn’t said what they were going to do. She might as well go prepared for a tramp over Exmoor; she added flat suede shoes and tucked a headscarf in her pocket, just in case that was what he had in mind.’
Most of Betty Neel’s girls (relative attractiveness aside) all seem to appreciate a little couture…) They will either be wistfully leafing through a current issue of vogue;
or, by some benevolent fairy godmother, (see what i did there? 😉 purchasing extremely lovely and often expensive clothes…Yes – The Bettys are a clothes-horse lot…
And Betty describes them soo well! So I couldn’t resist spending profitless hours drooling over equivalents, and narrowed it down to the following:
- Armani Jeans Peach Linen Belted Waist Dress: Sleeveless dress has eco-leather belt around waist. Neckline with front ruching & lapel collar.
- Bindya Cashmere Silk Flamingo Scarf: super softcashmere and silk, statement scarf from Bindya.
- ModCloth Apple Pie Afternoon Bootie: A faux-stacked heel and soft, vegan faux suede make this versatile pair as sweet as your hand-crafted confection.
- Aquascutum Lana Double Breasted Coat: a contemporary update on the classic trench coat
- By Malene Birger Alloba Bracelet: Solid gold
- Women’s Nordstrom Triangle Stud Earrings: Neat, polished triangles lend simple geometric style to a pair of go-to stud earrings.
And there I leave Tabitha and Marius, happily wandering in the twilight down a cobbled street, with sensible shoes and hopefully some sort of gelato. I on the other hand, am slightly poorer, (damm you Armani Dress!) and just a little bit sad… that is after all, one less Betty Neels I have to read…
à bientôt y’all!
*Yes – I know – I am cheating slightly because one of the particulars is three separate recipes – but po-tat-o, po-tah-to… 🙂