The Bloomsbury cookbook, Jans Ondaatje Rolls

Who knew Virginia Woolf liked to bake bread and was good at it? And that Dora Carrington learned how to cook to keep Lytton Strachey happy, who had to have rice pudding at least once a day?

Every now and then you buy a book that when you open it, you do not want to put down anymore. A book you want to keep reading, while you look at the beautiful pictures.

The Bloomsbury cookbook is such a book. The title is a bit misleading, because it is not all about recipes.

The Bloomsbury group was a loose group of artists, writers and thinkers, who shared friendship and love and who wanted freedom and change, especially after the stifling Victorian era.

It began as a group of Cambridge college friends of Toby, the brother of Vanessa and Virginia, who visited them in their rooms in Bloomsbury.

During the years more and more influential people joined these circles, including painters like Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Dora Carrington and Roger Fry, writers like Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey and thinkers like Leonard Woolf and John Maynard Keynes.
Virginia and Leonard Woolf
In The Bloomsbury cookbook writer Jans Ondaatje Rolls tries to come closer to these people through their recipes and the food they enjoyed.

The book is divided into seven chronological chapters. There is for example a chapter about the beginnings of Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury during WWI, Bloomsbury abroad etc.

The story of what happened at that moment is told through fragments from diaries, letters and of course their novels. Inbetween those stories are the recipes. Sometimes the original ones from members of the Bloomsbury group, sometimes from cookbooks from that time and even sometimes a modern one from the writer, inspired by the old recipes.  

The book is wonderfully decorated with photographs, handwritten recipes, grocerylists and letters and of course the many amazing painting by several Bloomsbury painters who often used food or dishes in their work.

Vanessa Bell
The book also contains a list of Bloomsbury members, more recipes and a very good bibliography.

The Bloomsbury cookbook is part cookbook, part memoires, part biography, part social history and part artbook. It does not matter what it is, it is a wonderful and beautiful book, that you will come back to time after time to be emerged in this world of Bloomsbury. I am very glad I own this book, because I can say it is one of the most amazing books I have on my shelves.

Original title: The Bloomsbury cookbook, recipes for life, love and art.
Published in 2014
Pages: 333
Everything the writer earns with this book, goes to the Charleston trust.


  1. You always find the best books. I love Virginia Woolf, but had no idea she could cook. And her Bloomsbury crowd is so interesting. Who wouldn't want this book? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Well, according to the book Virginia just baked bread (and messed up all the pots in the kitchen in the proces and then leave the washing up :-) ) But I just cannot imagine Virginia Woolf with her arms in flour. I love it, though.
      And this book is absolutely amazing in every other aspect, I am so glad I have it here.

      Kind regards


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