There were some things that were just accepted in the 80s and Barbara Cartland’s cookbook was one of them. Published in 1984, The Romance of Food features over 170 pages of kitschy technicolour plates that were all photographed at Cartland’s own Hertfordshire estate (the former home of Beatrix Potter), using her own antique porcelain and knick-knacks alongside the food.
The recipes are mostly courtesy of her private chef, Nigel Gordon, but the accompanying captions, arguably more brilliant than the food itself, are indeed Barbara’s own words, designed to put you in the mood for lurve. To quote Barbara from one of her recipes, she described the lobster as “an exotic creature from the deep, the colour of two red lips, which can invite, provoke and surrender.”
Of course, Barbara had a way with words in case you weren’t familiar with her career as one of the best-selling and most prolific authors of the twentieth century. She wrote more than 700 romance novels, making it into the Guinness Wold Records for the most novels published in a single year. Her book sales are estimated at more than two billion copies. Vogue called Cartland “the true Queen of Romance”.
Born in 1901, Barbara became prominent society figure in London. Best-known for being dressed in a pink gown and plumed hat, she remained one of Britain’s most popular media personalities, right up until her death in 2000.
In a BBC interview in the 1960s, a reporter once asked her: Do you think class barriers have broken down?
Barbara responded: Of course they have, or I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to someone like you.
Cartland’s step-granddaughter was Diana, Princess of Wales. They did not get along with each other and it was well-documented by the press that Barbara was not invited to the royal wedding to Prince Charles. Cartland openly criticised Diana’s divorce in the press, but the pair finally ended their feud shortly before the Princess’s untimely death in 1997. Cartland was allegedly quoted as saying, “The only books Diana ever read were mine, and they weren’t awfully good for her”.
So was Barbara really any good at romance? Cartland reportedly broke off her first engagement when she learned about sexual intercourse and “recoiled”. Most of Cartland’s books were set in historical times which allowed the reader to believe the chastity of the characters and accept the heroines were virginal. Having grown up in a generation that never discussed sex, suggestive situations in Cartland’s books were generally scarce.
In her cookbook however, published at the age of 83, Barbara seems to be a have found her wild side. Alongside her Coulibiac of Salmon, she writes, “No other Russian dish is so alluring. It makes me think of handsome, extravagant Princes, grand Palaces and the throbbing enchantment of gypsy violins.” Woah there Barbs!
“An English tea; how many men have been beguiled and captivated by a soft voice offering them a meringue?”
So if you’re in search of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift this year, why not try this cookbook of cream-laden aphrodisiacs for young lovers. Buy the book here.