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Isabella is coming home and she invited one of her London girlfriends and her mother! Such short notice too. I wish I had a little more in the way of preparation. Our home is humble and now I will have to postpone doing linen and curtains laundry day with Mrs Snipley, which I had scheduled with her weeks ago. Isabella has no concerns about household chores and duties, she thinks I’ll just find some cheese in the larder and that will do.

If it was just Isabella and her friend Agatha, they would be happy as long as they get strawberries and cream and a little sunshine in the park, but inviting a lady from London! This makes me very nervous, so I finally got to have a look at my Home Cookery and Comforts and had a think about the luncheon. They suggest forgoing soup, which I’m glad to do, and serving hors d’oevres on little dishes placed on a tray.

I’ve ordered anchovies from the Elsworths on Nelson Street and he also carries dried dates and Greek olives, which, ordered in modest quantities, I can budget for. His selection of such grocer’s goods has always surprised me as most of the inhabitants of that area are poor and live in squalour. I’ve heard that the town is planning to eradicate the whole squalid maze of courtyards and ginnels as pretty much all the cholera and typhoid outbreaks have originated there, at least in my lifetime. But Charles Elsworth is running a respectable business and I can always count on his cheap prices, bless him! So I’m hoping to get Mrs Snipley help me with the silverware and table linen instead of laundry day, which will make her very grumpy. I’ll have her unpack my Japanese bone china tea set Mr Stanley brought from overseas and use the saucers as offering dishes. They are quite big, black laquerish, and slightly oblong, so this lady might not even notice that they are just saucers. I hear oriental is all the rage in London right now, so the old china may even become my pièce de résistance!

As you can see, I’ve decided to make the luncheon oriental and foreign looking. I also hope to leave my lovely old shawls delicately arranged on spots where my upholstery went shiny or a little thin. Then I’ll make curry croquets and veal and ham pie for mains.

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Fortunately I’m quite good at baking pies and I have some real nice pie dishes from my mother too, so, I’m quite confident that it will look very good. I’m a bit concerned about the eggs though! I will need five just for the mains and then some for the dessert too. So expensive!

In the end I’ve decided against the macaroon trifle for dessert. It’s very costly and too rich in my opinion. I will make my famous gooseberry fool with rose water and serve it in the black china cups with some fresh mint sprinkled on top. If I make it with custard instead of fresh cream (yet another egg or two necessary, there we go again), I can make it the night before and it will not go off in the pantry. Even if the lady is not a lover of sweet treats and puddings, the girls will devour the gooseberry fools in a minute, I know! Who can resist the fluffy tart goodness of gooseberries? It’s late in the gooseberry season, but this is when you find the sweetest softest berries, some even blushed to a dawnish pink! I will of course have some Stilton and crackers ready, maybe served with a fresh pear or two.

Look at me, I was all nervous and unhappy about this invitation, let alone the shyness that consumes me in the presence of ladies from London. And instead now I’m consumed with all the merry preparations! We had such a busy home when Stanley was still alive and I feel this humble end-of-August luncheon will bring back some flittering-fluttering vibrant social life to the quiet of the Sabgalle household for an afternoon filled with women’s natter. I do hope this mother of Agatha is not some fussy lemonface!

Have a look at the semi-respectable Elsworth’s, purveyor of anchovies to Lavender’s kitchen:

Charles Elsworths Nelson Street (now Eastgate): http://www.leodis.net/display.aspx?resourceIdentifier=2002318_10136050

Lavender did not have to wait long before the area came under scrutiny. As a recent urban conservation study suggests “The Leyland/ Eastgate Square area was previously a maze of small courts, areas and yards that had been identified as one of Leeds’ prime “unhealthy areas”. It was noted in the Cholera survey of 1833, and by the unhealthy areas maps of 1914, 1915, and 1921. The Lady Beck was identified as a source of typhoid outbreaks in the area over a number of years.” (p.47)

In an urban rejuvenation project in the 1930, dominated by Blomfeld’s mannerist city buildings the formerly shady one-storey urban landscape was transformed into the avenue design of Eastgate as we know it:

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And finally, a thought about the berries England has to offer in this season: http://www.berryworld.co.uk/berries/

Pick your own or go to the market and make a lovely goosberry fool in honour of Lavender: http://thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/200/

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