The most significant point to be made about this book is that, by the term “dessert,” the author means, strictly, just one type of dish—and that dish is fruit.
A distinguished pomologist, nurseryman, and, in general, a highly regarded authority on plant-based foods, Edward Bunyard (1878-1939) does not even mention apple pie or strawberry shortcake. For him, it is enough to savor fruits, as they come off the tree, or bush, or vine. Wine, if anything, is quite sufficient to go with fruit, any further treatment or accompaniment is not worth a mention.
Individual chapters are devoted to apples, apricots, cherries, pears, gooseberries, and perhaps a dozen others—including ten or so pages on nuts. The many varieties of each are discussed gracefully; this is no textbook, but a charming appreciation of great fruit, interspersed with many entertaining historical observations—reaching back even onto the tables of ancient Greece and Rome. Of one Italian pear, we read, “here at last...the lyrical touch, the warmth and color we are seeking. Molto bene profumata! Excellent!”
Seasonality is brought front and center, as are the ideal conditions for consuming the fruit—pears, for example, refrigerated but brought up “an hour or two before, so that they have some of the chill of the fruit-room in them.” Or, of gooseberries, that English favorite, “a friend tells me that the moment of moments and the day of days is on the return from church at 12:30 on a warm July day, when the fruit is distinctly warm.”
The section of the book called A Few Wine Notes is, in fact, some fifty pages long. Much of it is from a different era and about wines no longer available, but it is a delight to read that “claret is the Beethoven of wines and, like all classics, does not reveal itself fully at first acquaintance. An intellectual wine also, with a touch of astringency, perhaps a necessary quality for the preservation of classics. Richardson is forgotten while Jane Austen is still with us, preserved by the light acid of her wit and her gay, astringent irony.” Bunyard’s book was first published in England in 1929.