Bloomsbury Jam

Bloomsbury Jam

The Bloomsbury cookbook: Recipes for life, love and art

by Jans Ondaatje Rolls

Thames & Hudson, $49.95 hb, 384 pp, 9780500517307

Gay Bilson

Gay Bilson

Gay Bilson was, for twenty-five years (1973–1998), a restaurateur and cook in Sydney. She has created and directed several events

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In the first volume of Virginia Woolf’s diary (1915–19), an entry in June 1919 mentions England’s possibly ruined strawberry crop. ‘This is a serious matter for us as we have just bought 60 lbs. of sugar, & had arranged a great jam making. Strawberries are 2/ a lb. at this moment. Asparagus 6d & 7d, & yesterday at Ray’s I ate my first green peas.’

I have always wondered who made the jam. In 1916 Nellie Boxall began cooking in the Woolf household and stayed there for eighteen fraught years (Alison’s Light’s book Mrs Woolf and the Servants [2009] is illuminating). Woolf’s diary entry does not make it clear whether the ‘great jam making’ was undertaken by the servants alone or whether she put down her pen to help.

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