Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mr Rosenblum's List, Constance Spry and Coronation Chicken

I picked up Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons at the local library on a whim and really enjoyed reading it. It's a charming book about a German Jewish man, Mr Rosenblum who, along with his wife and daughter, leave Nazi Germany and move to England prior to the implementation of Hitler's "Final Solution".
Mr Rosenblum is committed to becoming a proper Englishman and his ambitions take him on an interesting journey from inner city London, to successful carpet manufacturer, to "an enemy alien" internee and finally a country gentleman when he moves to Dorset to construct a golf course on fields that come with a tumbledown cottage.
Mr Rosenblum's self belief and optimism are unquenchable and he throws himself into this new life as an  Englishman. His long suffering wife Sadie, is haunted by the past and desperately tries to construct an inner world where she can hold onto the ghosts of her parents and brother Emil - all lost to her in the Holocaust. One of Mrs Rosenblum's connections is through her mother's cookbook. As she cooks the dishes contained in the cookbook the aromas trigger memories of happier times. One of the most poignant moments is when Sadie cooks a Baumtorte - or "tree cake" - each layer representing a memory. 
Photo source: Natasha Solomon
The Baumtorte is based on a recipe in a cookbook Natasha inherited from her own grandmother - you can find the recipe here.
I can completely imagine this book as a film and apparently she and her husband are working on a screenplay. I do hope someone options it for a movie - it would be fantastic! I imagined Pete Postlethwaite as Mr Rosenblum's cider loving and partially pickled friend, Curtis. Such a shame he (i.e. Pete Postlethwaite) passed away last week.
The book also references the famous "Coronation Chicken" invented by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume to serve to foreign dignatories during the coronation. In one of those nice serendipitous moments I had been reading one of Nigella's cookbooks and she gave her spin on "Coronation Chicken" and it finally clicked in my head that this was the same recipe my mother had received from her friend, the late June Bosanquet and known to us as "Creamed Curried Chicken".
Back to Constant Spry. As the link to Wikipedia shows - she was quite an interesting character and I think would be a wonderful subject for a movie also. There is a relatively new book out about her called The Suprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shephard. Might have to add it to the reading list! Of course - the other thing that was pinging away in the back of my brain was why I heard of Constance Spry. She was, of course, famous as a floral designer and had a fabulous David Austin rose named after her "Constance Spry". Bingo! Pinging 25th brain cell was satisfied. I love that rose!
Don't you love going down rabbit trails?