Thursday, December 1, 2011

Round the World in 80 Dishes

 Recently I came upon this intriguing red cookbook with the catchy title Round the World in 80 Dishes while out treasure hunting.

I had never heard of the author Lesley Blanch and had no idea what an amazing woman she was. 

In 1955 she wrote Round the World in 80 Dishes borrowing a theme from Jules Verne.  Having traveled the world with her husband, Romain Gary, a French diplomat and author, she knew a thing or two about eating around the globe.

"One of the most fascinating cookery books ever written. She is a gourmet who has traveled far and wide and so has been able to produce a charming guide to good food, decorated with her own engaging drawings."

"It is said that a nation is made by what it eats: undoubtedly diet affects character," Blanch wrote in her foreword to Round the World in 80 Dishes.

Blanch attributed her stoic perseverance to her mother who always told her, "just get up and get on with it."  The precursor to, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.


And get on with it she did. She wanted to be a painter so she enrolled at The Slade School where Vanessa Bell, Dora Carrington and many other notables studied. In the late 30's and early 40's she was the features editor at British Vogue. She rarely spoke of her first or second marriage. In 1945, she married French novelist and diplomat Romain Gary. The diplomatic couple traveled the world to the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa, Mexico and ended up in Hollywood - which would be the end for them. In Hollywood, Gary met and fell in love with Jean Seberg.

 In the course of her life she would hobnob with Gary Cooper, Cecil Beaton, Aldous Huxley, George Cukor, David Selznick, Sophia Loren, Laurence Olivier, Charles Boyer, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Andre Malraux, Nancy Mitford, Jessica Mitford, the Shahbanou of Iran, the Duchess of Windsor, Igor Stravinsky and Rebecca West, to name a few. 

In 1994 her house burned to the ground, taking with it a lifetime of acquisitions from around the world. Fortunately the cats survived. In true fashion, she rebuilt and hearing her mother in her head she just got up and got on with it.

In May, 2007, one month before she turned 103, Lesley Branch died.

 To learn more about Lesley Blanch's prolific career and fascinating life check out her official website here.

To purchase my vintage 1955 copy of Round the World in 80 Dishes for yourself or the foodie in your life, click here. It would make a fun and unique Christmas gift!




*excerpts from here

and here



Claudia Fabiana said...

I love what a great little treasure of a book this is. What an interesting woman and story!

Karena said...

What an amazing woman with so much inner strength!

Oooh I adore the Fabulous crown!

Please Come and enter the 1st of Twelve Days of Holiday giveaways! It is stunning!

Art by Karena

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I can't believe I've never heard of her before. She sounds absolutely wonderful! That little cookbook turned out to be quite a treasure indeed - at least it seems to have you on a treasure hunt :)

The enchanted home said...

Sounds like such a fun and entertaining read and the title is so catchy! Thanks for letting me know!

Acquired Objects said...

What an interesting woman who sounds like she lived life on her own terms. She lived to be 103 I could only hope!

cjsullivan133 said...

She reminds me of "Lil Eddie" a bit, with the mom being always on her mind and the way she likes to wear head dresses. I have never heard of her. So sad she had that fire and lost everything. I will look into her. She was absolutely stunning in the photo of her at her desk. Love it.