Never a dull moment for this cook

Review: Myrna Robins

A Sprig of Rosemarie, by Rosemarie Saunders (Print Matters Heritage)

Subtitled “A journey of culinary memories and recipes”, this gastronomic potpourri presents a medley of recipes, each accompanied by Saunders’s personal story of where the dishes were cooked and what occasion she was catering for.

Although this is a slim softback of just over 100 pages, it packs a fine variety of fare, ranging from timeless classics to her adaptations of French, Italian and the odd Greek dish. Thai favourites get a look-in and there’s a delicious story of how footwear was suggested as a design theme for tables of African banquets she was producing for embassy staff and dignatories in Addis Ababa…

Recipes do not list ingredients preceding method, but the two are combined which saves space. The ingredients are printed in bold, so home cooks can collect these quite easily before starting preparation.

Saunders’s recipes do not follow any menu pattern, but perhaps are dictated by the highlights of the catered occasion, often consisting of a disaster which had to dealt with professionally and speedily.  So the contents open with a salmon tower followed by lamb tapenade and nougat ice cream, and finish – 52 recipes later – with butternut soup and tatin and chicken quenelles with champagne sauce on tagliatelle. It is an intensely personal collection.

Those who have enjoyed her cookery classes, her catering and her cocktail parties will savour the book for bringing back delectable memories that will see some head to the kitchen to recreate favourites at home. It is also sure to intrigue the younger generation who may know Saunders only by name and reputation. Many on-trend foodies will relish recipes for captivating dishes that fill the need for global and local gourmet gems at times when a vegan mix of roasted root veggies, pulses and a variety of leaves just don’t make the cut… 

Somewhere in the middle we read of what proved to be her worst disaster: a fire blazed at her business premises, destroying kitchen equipment, her recipe collection, and food preparation for a dinner for 40 on a wine farm. She also had 46 functions booked for that month. True to form, the show did go on, with the help of suppliers, friends, family and staff, as did the culinary events that followed. She took the  fire in her stride as a sign to “time to change, time to stop and reflect.”

Saunders not only styled the food for photography but took the pictures as well, interspersing them with the odd scenic landscape. 

If looking for a single word to describe this talented cook, it could be “resourceful”, and as Michael Olivier says in his tribute in the foreword, no one can say her life has been dull!



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