An Appetite for Violets was originally inspired by the wonderful National Trust kitchen at Erddig Hall, near Chester, which formed the basis for fictional Mawton Hall. One day I was casually looking at some photocopies of handwritten recipes in the kitchen when a spark ignited and lit up my mind. I decided to write an historical novel about a clever young cook that evoked a world of lost recipes, and an account of a journey to foreign lands.
I then set off on a thrilling journey to follow my heroine Biddy Leigh across France and the Alps to Italy. Following in the footsteps of the Grand Tourists I asked myself what travellers really ate in the eighteenth century? Where did they stay and what would they have seen?
While writing the novel I retraced Biddy’s journey, travelling to Paris, Lyons, Savoie and Tuscany. The guide book I followed was Thomas Nugent’s Grand Tour originally published in 1756.
The pleasurable schadenfreude of reading eighteenth century travellers’ accounts was a rich inspiration to write An Appetite for Violets. Travel in the past was dangerous, uncomfortable and brought out the same fears of being fleeced and cheated as travellers experience today. I learned much from the diaries of Samuel Sharp, Hugh Walpole, and James Boswell and from Hester Lynch Piozzi for details of dress and social nuance often missed by her male contemporaries.
Biddy Leigh's Journey 1772-3 from
Cheshire to Tuscany, Italy
Follow the journey: