A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat, written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
published in 2015 by schwartz&wade books
Imagine the velvety smoothness of fresh whipped cream, swirled with a tangy purple streak of blackberry swizzle.
This story about that fine dessert — blackberry fool — is in every possible way, delicious.
Of course, its subject matter is delectable.
Equally so are its lovely language, historical perceptiveness, captivating artwork, creamy pages, fascinating notes by author and illustrator, and even the surprising endpapers.
It’s simply the crème de la crème. Nonfiction perfection.
The story stops in on four families, each separated by one hundred years in time, as they prepare and enjoy a scrumptious bowlful of blackberry fool. A wealthy English household in 1710, an 1810 plantation, a New England family in 1910, and a southern California father and son in 2010 — four very different eras, one old recipe relished by all.
Because of the immense thought Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall put into this account, we get to feast on a banquet of history and ideas here. As time passes, architecture changes, as do fashions, furnishings, hairstyles, kitchen equipment, menus. Society changes dramatically as well. I love the final picture of a diverse community eating together. If you pay attention, you’ll pick up on many, masterful details which I’ll leave for you to discover.
Despite the tide of change that sweeps us along, some sweet constants also show up, including the satisfaction of cooking for people we love, the joy of gathering around the table together, the way generations of children take up the family recipes from their elders, and the lip-smacking delight of licking the spoon! These and other warm currents undergird the story and keep it from being a sort of detached history.