The library of Bompas & Parr

Culinary design boffins Bompas & Parr are inviting the public to walk the corridors of their minds, by picking up volumes of their greatest inspirations and leafing through them.

Bookplate designed for Bompas & Parr by artist Minho Kwon
Bookplate designed for Bompas & Parr by artist Minho Kwon

They’ve opened a library, The Soyer Memorial Library, for an upcoming Experimental Food Society event – an organisation which shows and supports similarly avant-garde gastronomic feats.

Expect Dali’s and Tolouse-Lautrec’s cookbooks, an early book on toasting in the shape of a beer tankard, a 1950s tome with 266 recipes for bivalves and the cookbook by romance novelist Barbara Cartland.

Sam Bompas says, ‘The library is dedicated to Alexis Soyer, one of Bompas & Parr’s culinary heroes, Victorian celebrity chef, showman and philanthropist.

‘As well as popularising gas cookery – thereby saving chefs from premature death from respiratory problems – Soyer was sent by the British Government to resolve the Irish Potato Famine, wrote books and opened a food based theme park to rival the Great Exhibition.

‘This included ice caves with stuffed snow foxes, mirror chambers, London’s first cocktail bar, a medieval banqueting hall to seat 5000 and a grotto which you had to step through a waterfall to enter. Soyer’s stove design created for the British army during the Crimean War was still in service in the Falklands.’

Putting the library together has taken Sam Bompas a decade and has led him to countless second hand bookshops and to various antiquarian bookdealers.

A glimpse at Bompas and Parr's collection
A glimpse at Bompas and Parr’s collection

His journey has led him to discover ‘the notorious White Trash Cookbook, the lurid How to Garnish and the sensational Drag Queen’s Cookbook and Guide to Sensible Living.’

The library will subsequently be open at Bompas & Parr’s studio on regular selected dates.

The advent of the library follows their own ventures into publishing with Bompas & Parr Editions, founded to print food related books, magazines and ephemera, which they see as ‘too savage, highbrow, niche, topical or provocative for conventional publishers to consider.’

It also focuses on making rare and out of print culinary works accessible for food enthusiasts.

In coming months this will include their own work Spread ‘the world’s first scratch ‘n’ sniff food pornography’ and Memoirs of a Stomach, a reprint of Sydney Whiting’s book written from the point of view of ‘a querulous and at times rebellious stomach.’

Experimental Food Society Exhibition
 takes place on Friday 8 November & Saturday 9 November
 at Truman Brewery, 15 Hanbury Street, London, E1. Tickets are available from www.wegottickets.com/EFS

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