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.
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!