The Food of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I didn't think I would like THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's historical-- set in 1946-- and about the German occupation of the Channel Islands told entirely via letters, and my totally biased self was expecting a depressing story full of boring facts that would be hard to follow. This book was none of that. I don't want to say it was heartwarming, because that's an overused word, but my heart did warm to this group of people forced to form a book club under dire conditions and the writer who discovers their stories.

Food is tied very tightly with this story-- as evident from the book's title. There's mention of food in just about every letter. You're probably thinking this calls for a recipe for Potato Peel Pie.

.. refreshments became part of our program. Since there was scant butter, less flour, and no sugar to spare on Guernsey then, Will concocted a potato peel pie: mashed potatoes for filling, strained beets for sweetness, and potato peelings for crust.

In fact, the Society was founded because of a meal of roast pig. Were it not for the roast pig, nothing else would have followed.

Sometimes food is remembered fondly, and other times, no one wants to remember the taste of food, as one of the Society's members learned when she read aloud from a cookbook:

They was pushed over the edge, hearing of my tasty recipes. Isola Pribby, that never had a manner to call her own, she cried out I was tormenting her and she was going to hex my saucepans.

The next day the cookbook lover is asked to "remember that most of them had come to the meeting directly from a supper of turnip soup (with nary a bone in it to give pith), or parboiled potatoes scorched on a hot iron-- there being no cooking fat to fry them up in". So, you see the love-hate relationship with food, and it continues throughout the book as food lovers are either in feast or famine.

Funnily enough, I don't feel pushed to cook or bake from this book. What I feel is a need to not ever take food for granted. I realize how easy it would be to end up in a war-time famine such as this. I've grown rather fond of food over the years.

If you'd like to have a meal a la Guernsey Literary Society, might I suggest a slice of ham with canned beets and mashed potatoes-- a meal to commemorate their founding? Perhaps a slice of raspberry pie for dessert, in memory of the plentiful berries from the post-war years.

Don't mind me. I'll be off dreaming of a sight-seeing tour of Guernsey and the Channel Islands.