England 1772 - Mawton to Dover
Biddy’s journey begins at Mawton Hall in Cheshire, when her enigmatic new mistress orders her to accompany her on a mysterious journey. Biddy takes with her an old household book of recipes, The Cook’s Jewel, in which she records her observations and recipes as she follows the Great North Road through Nantwich, Lichfield, Stone and on to London and Dover.
One of the pleasures of researching the book was following the routes to towns such as Lichfield and Stone, once great coaching towns, now fallen into relative obscurity.
I especially enjoyed following John Byng (later Viscount Torrington) and reading his acerbic opinions of country inns and the food he was served. Especially fascinating are the ephemera he collected such as inn bills, handbills for local fairs and sketches of ‘antique’ houses, many now vanished.
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.
When Biddy arrived in London in 1773 it was a smoky teeming city with sophisticated taverns and coffee houses. A confectioner’s shop like the famous Pot and Pineapple would have entranced a country cook with its fashionable Italian ice creams and confectionery.
The winter crossing from Dover to Calais was faced by many with terror. Storms could delay the packet boat by weeks and if the conditions were rough the last leg into Calais would be by precarious rowing boat
Follow the journey: