It’s no secret that I wasn’t looking forward to reading Rebecca. It was a classic that scared me. Daunted me. Until one day recently I picked it up and read it cover to cover.
It’s one of those novels that you can’t help but continue to think about. It’s probably a couple of months since I read it but scenes keep appearing before me. I could be wandering outside and disturb a flock of pigeons roosting in the trees above. In Rebecca du Maurier likens this startled pigeon noise to that of “old ladies caught at their ablutions”. I think of this every time a pigeon flutters its wings in that wonderfully, noisy agitated fashion. (I thought of it again this evening on the school run when I saw an agitated pigeon clutching at some ivy and hanging upside down. Yes, just like a bat.)
Food makes me think of Rebecca, too. Take marmalade, for example. A simple breakfast preserve. But the preserve of choice for Maxim de Winter. When I see a jar (my husband is rather partial to marmalade) I remember the scene where Maxim is ordering his breakfast of marmalade, toast, coffee, a boiled egg and a tangerine, whilst proposing to our narrator, “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.“
I like how Daphne du Maurier uses food to enhance their different situations. When the novel begins and they’re no longer at Manderley the narrator describes the food as “indifferent“. Their afternoon tea, because despite being in a foreign country they stick to their English routine, now consists of bread and butter.
Compare this indifference to how they ate at Manderley:
“Dripping crumpets…Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, floury scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins.”
After reading that paragraph don’t you get an urge for crumpets? I’ve forgotten everything else. I can only think of having crumpets dripping with butter, sitting by the fire. And I don’t mean ones from the supermarket. After all, I can’t imagine Mrs Danvers would have nipped down to her local supermarket to pick up a packet. No, homemade is the way to truly recreate what Maxim and his second wife would tuck into on an afternoon. And really, what could be nicer?
Recipe for Homemade Crumpets
4 crumpet rings or egg rings. (I bought these Ring Moulds cheaply from amazon). Saucepan, frying pan, large bowl, wooden spoon, soup ladle.
- 275ml milk
- 50ml water
- 1 x 7g packet of fast action yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 225g strong white bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Lots and lots of butter
- In the saucepan gently warm the milk and water until there are little bubbles around the edges. Remove from the heat and allow to cool so it is just warm.
- Remove from the heat, add the yeast and sugar, mix well, then leave in a warm place, covered with a tea-towel, for about ten minutes. The milk will become nice and frothy.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and mix in the milk.
- Beat well with a wooden spoon.
- Leave in a warm place, covered with a tea-towel, for about one hour.
- Prepare your saucepan by greasing lightly with the sunflower oil. Grease your crumpet rings, too.
- When the mixture is ready (it will have risen to about twice the size and have air holes), heat the frying pan to a medium heat and pour in ladles of mixture into the rings.
- Allow to cook on one side for about five minutes or so. The crumpet rings should slip off once cooked, so remove and flip each crumpet over for one to two minutes to allow to cook on the other side. Re-grease your pan and rings to do another batch.
- Serve immediately or, allow to cool, then pop into the toaster when ready.