Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Martine Bailey’s "An Appetite for Violets"

Martine Bailey’s first historical novel, An Appetite for Violets, is a gastronomic mystery tale set in 18th century Europe. Written as a book of recipes, it takes a young cook on a murderous trip from England to Italy. Bailey lives in Chester, England and as an amateur cook, won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
My mystery novel An Appetite for Violets takes the reader on a gastronomic journey through Europe in the 1700s, in the company of a feisty young cook. When writing it, I visualized the movie so often that my copy of screenwriter Robert McKee’s Story fell to pieces from daily use.

Forget the casting, my first question is: who is going to make the food? In this movie the food has to be the beautiful, from the health foods served at that newly invented Parisian phenomenon – the ‘Restaurant’ - to the vast sugar temples created for banquets and even a life-size figure made of marzipan. I studied historic food with TV consultant Ivan Day, who created the food for P D James’s Pride & Prejudice inspired Death Comes to Pemberley, so Ivan heads my team.

My heroine, Biddy Leigh is a sharp, warm-hearted cook, torn from her English country house kitchen to travel (and cook) her way to Italy. I’d give her role to earthy and naturalistic Romola Garai, star of Emma and Mary Bryant. Biddy’s aristocratic mistress, Lady Carinna, has a big secret and a sinister edge; a great role for imperious but vulnerable Gemma Arterton (Tess of the D’Urbevilles). Her seductive rake of a brother, Kitt should be played by Irish actor Aidan Turner, who is just about to star in the BBC’s new costume drama Poldark, about a British officer returning from the American Revolutionary war. As for grumpy steward Mr Pars, who leads the band of travellers to Italy, it could only be Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson, Jim Carter.

Now for the lucky devil who gets to be location scout – that’s me. To research the book I travelled to as many locations as I could, using Mr Nugent’s Grand Tour of 1756. I even ventured up Mont Blanc to look at the crossing between France and Italy, thankful that I was in an electric cable car and not carried in a wooden chair by Alpine mountain men, like my terrified characters.

My movie’s director would be Sense and Sensibility’s Ang Lee, for his attention to character and authenticity. I’m sure he would do justice to the elaborate food, fashionable silks, flickering candlelight and the emotional twists and turns of my brave European travellers.
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue