“I haven’t cooked since the war” is the Duchess of Devonshire’s wonderfully acerbic opening sentence in her cookbook ‘The Chatsworth Cookery Book’. (This is the kind of statement you can imagine being pronounced airily by Maggie Smith in ‘Downton Abbey’.)
This doesn’t mean however that food is not important to her, Chatsworth has a restaurant and a farm shop. Of course her chefs do know how to cook and it’s with their help that she has compiled the recipes or ‘receipts’ within, often from family favourites.
Nancy’s partner (not her husband, her lover, naturellement) with whom she lived in Paris was a huge fan of traditional British puddings and there was some frustration that authentic versions could not be created by their French chef. Nancy herself literally, actually having tried, could not boil an egg.
Debo’s favourite cookbooks are ‘A book of Scents and Dishes’ 1925 and ‘A medley of Recipes’ 1936 by her cousin Dorothy Alhusen. It is no doubt commonplace for aristocrats to be so well connected that your books are written not only by people you know, but by relatives.
The Mitfords are definitely ‘divas’ in the broad sense that I have defined for my dinners celebrating strong women. They have a huge fan base even including the fuckyeah genre of Tumblr blogs. Following or creating ‘Fuckyeah’ blogs means you are really a big fan. I know Josie Long is fascinated by the Mitfords and am looking forward to her sketches in which she plays all of the sisters, plus ‘farve’ and ‘muv’ (Mitford Seniors) probably simultaneously.