Petits Propos Culinaires, an Oft-Overlooked and Unobtainable Tool Now Available in Digital

In these days of plague, I’ve spent much time thinking about the past. Not so much my own past as that of England. The runaway popularity of “Downton Abbey” and the resurgence of interest in Jane Austen contributed to a new rabbit hole I’m climbing down. And maybe too a little curiosity about the Black Death, since at times I fear my emotions mirror those of people who had no idea why this sickness came upon them.

English culinary history.

On my way down this rabbit hole a few weeks ago, I passed mentions of the usual resources, grasping their roots as I went, including one rarely available to me in the past: Petits Propos Culinaires, or PPC as it’s known, French for “little culinary matters.” The tagline for the journal reads “Essays and notes on food, cooking and cookery books.” (The missing Oxford comma there makes my fingers itch, to be frank.)

No slots bandit cradling bags of coins ever felt more elated at winning than I did that day when I discovered – for £49.99 ($67.56 US on February 7, 2022) – I could snag a year’s digital subscription for ALL 121 issues of PPC, ranging from 1979 to fall 2021. Only winning the lottery or getting published in The New Yorker would make me happier.

UK food writer Bee Wilson once remarked, “It’s a miracle that PPC has survived all these years, given the parlous state of independent publishing. … PPC endures, despite having a weird title and devoting its pages to some pretty out-of-the-way food history.” (May 9, 2014, The Daily Telegraph)

Happily for me, the focus of PPC leans British, although the odd article about other kitchens and other time periods elsewhere make their appearances, albeit brief.

Alan Davidson, PPC‘s founder, wrote about starting the journal, saying ” … the sensation is rather like being launched with a magnum, a jerobaum, and nebuchadnezzar of champagne instead of a bottle of normal size!” That first issue included three articles from Elizabeth David‘s pen, as well as a recipe from Jeremiah Tower for pear and watercress soup. And The New York Times lavished blessings on the fledgling enterprise.

Please excuse me now while I peruse Elizabeth David’s reflections on the Countess of Kent in issue #1 … .