Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reading and Recipes: Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton

Yet again at the Wichita recycling center's book section, I found a copy of  Magdalen King-Hall's The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, not even knowing it was the source material for the Gainsborough film The Wicked Lady. The book is in really disgusting shape and felt damp the entire time I was reading it (hopefully it hasn't given me some dread mold-borne disease). However, it was free and actually entertaining. How I love going to the recycling center. The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton is a about a bored 17th-century noblewoman who seeks excitement as a part-time highway(wo)man.  It's a quick read and a lot of fun. Shelve it between Frenchman's Creek and Forever Amber.

So what I really wanted to make was a pigeon pie. It's mentioned several times in the book, along with lots of possets and syllabubs. King-Hall frequently tells her readers what's eaten in a particular scene. As you might guess, I like that about her. It kept me busy making notes the entire time I was reading. Unfortunately, there were no pigeons to be found save for those in my yard and it's illegal to shoot them, although I guess I could have wrung their necks but I'm not quite ready for that. So, I moved on to Plan B--something with rosemary, which is a recurring theme in the novel.

"...rosemary for the bride, rosemary for the corpse, symbol of the unity underlying all life and death" (269).

Brussels Sprouts with Rosemary Cream

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and outer leaves removed (large sprouts halved)
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 sprig rosemary
juice from 1 lemon

Boil the sprouts in salted water for ten minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the sour cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Mince the leaves from the rosemary and add them to the sour cream along with the lemon juice. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over the sprouts.

Serves 4

Inspired by "Sprout Tops with Cream, Lemon and Rosemary" in Rose Prince, The New English Kitchen (London: Fourth Estate, 2005), 341.


The film version, The Wicked Lady (1945), is quite a bit different from the book, but the changes actually do work pretty well. To my knowledge there's never been a U.S. video release of the movie (on VHS or DVD), but I didn't have too much trouble finding it on--ahem--YouTube. If you're lucky enough to have a region-free DVD player, there are three region 2 releases (one is part of the Margaret Lockwood collection and another is part of a Rank 70th Anniversary collection). I keep telling Paul I need a region-free DVD player. How else am I supposed to get to see The Man in Grey? Doesn't it look ridiculous yet awesome?

Go check out this 1980 interview with Margaret Lockwood--she's a hoot. There's quite a bit about The Wicked Lady.


  1. I love Brussels sprouts, but I've always just cooked them in butter. This sounds oh so delicious-- I'm just going to have to try it!

    ♥ laura
    the blog of worldly delights

    1. I love Brussels sprouts, too. I'm always looking for new ways to fix vegetables.

  2. Hmmm...I love brussels sprouts and I love rosemary. This looks interesting!

  3. I am intrigued by this recipe, I must say!
    Oh, finally watched "Black Narcissus" this weekend--have you ever seen it?

    1. I haven't seen it yet but I think it's on Netflix, so I'll check it out (hopefully) this week.

  4. It is terrible but I have never seen The Wicked Lady, my mum loves it. You really should make a book of all your wonderful film related recipes. x

  5. I've got to try the brussell sprouts - they look yummy! Your daddy and I actually watched The Wicked Lady sometime back - it must have been on TCM, I don't know where else we would have seen it...

  6. Lauren, you DO need a region free DVD because when I eventually get around to sending your Bette Davis' Marmalade, I'm going to send you some Diana Dors films too - Region 2!

    Love the look of your sprouts. The only Paulette Goddard recipe I have is for "creamed sprouts" and they were yummy.

    I agree with Hannah - bring on your book!

    1. I'll figure something out. I'm awfully excited about the Diana Dors movies (and the marmalade). Thank you!

  7. The book sounds intriguing and the rosemary cream and sprouts look delicious. I love learning about movies and recipes from the past on your blog! Have a great weekend.

  8. What a great permise for a story! I love brussel sprouts but that cream is over ths top delicious. Must. Make. Now!

  9. The rosemary cream looks dee-licious.

    I am intrigued by the novel. And the movie

    I l iek the sound of the recycle book centre. My mother in law has informed me that there is a place near where she lives that has opened up doing the same thing. She's been going there for a few months now and has read a number of books. When I visit her, I may get to check it out.

  10. Everyone should buy a multi region DVD player. You can get one on Ebay for $50 these days (not the small fortune I had originally spent years back!) The Wicked Lady is in my top five fave films of all time. Thanks for promoting it! Avoid at all costs the Faye Dunaway remake though. I wish they'd given Michael Rennie's part to Stewart Granger though. Patricia Roc is so lovely in that film. And she had a hot affair with Ronald Reagan !


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