A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere
Skyhorse Publishing, 2018
Tea parties are always a delight, and when they come with a literary theme? Even better. Author Alison Walsh has translated her food blog Alison’s Wonderland Recipes into a cookbook full of literary-themed dishes and menus to suit a variety of occasions.
Ideas are culled from many different literary works; from childrens’ titles such as Winnie the Pooh and The Secret Garden, to more adult fare including Shakespeare and the works of Agatha Christie.
Recipes are mostly “inspired by” as opposed to lifted from the books themselves. For instance Walsh translated Christie character Hercule Poirot’s love of creme de menthe liqueur into a creme de menthe truffle. A pink cake flavoured with raspberry comes from a line in A Little Princess where Becky the maid recalls seeing a real princess in a pink dress. This artistic license is not out of place, as most of the items work well for their intended literary work or character. However, the presumption that all readers of this book will be familiar with all of the works referenced might not work in Walsh’s favour. Someone unfamiliar with the classic works the author bases her recipes on might be less inclined to buy the book or try the recipes.
Overall this is a cute and fun collection of mostly simple and familiar recipes; tea sandwiches, hand pies with apple and cheese, scotch eggs, scones, muffins, and cookies, most of which could easily be made with kids as a way to learn more about particular books, or cooking in general. A few of these recipes might be more work than might be worth the effort required, though. The March family gingerbread people, all with differently decorated dresses, look like a lot of work for a few cookies.
Some recipes are bang on, however. The Queen of Hearts painted rose cupcakes offer a big impression with a simple technique, and many of the savouries, while simple in execution, are fun and relate well to the associated story.
Walsh offers a large section of tea blends to go with the menus, and includes some relevant drink recipes, such as both a raspberry cordial tea and a sweet, non-alcoholic raspberry cordial drink to pair with Anne of Green Gables.
Each recipe includes a quote from the associated work, brief headnotes to explain the association between book and recipe, a suggested tea pairing, and a “suggested serving” that ties in with the book somehow. I found this last item somewhat grating after a while, all of them being a bit too twee and trying slightly too hard.
I’m not sure I would buy this book for myself, but it would be a great gift for a young person to encourage them to both read the classics and to learn to cook.
Usability: Very good. I am reviewing from a pdf file but the layout is clean with good sized fonts and a good balance of text to white space, and it looks like this would pass my “counter top test”. Directions are broken down by paragraph with numbered steps. Some recipes look more complicated than most people could do easily but the majority of recipes could be made with kids. No metric measurements but there is a conversion chart at the back.
With thanks to Skyhorse Publishing and NetGalley, this book was reviewed from an Advance Reader Copy and may not include exactly the same content or format when published.