When “Downton Abbey” brought its third season to America and PBS on Sunday night, everyone expected sparks to fly at tea. At cocktails. At dinner. Upstairs. Downstairs. (Local viewers were especially eager: According to local station KCTS, Seattle had the highest viewership in America on Sunday, for the premiere episode of “Downton Abbey” Season 3.)
And especially when Martha Levinson (played by Shirley MacLaine) rolls up to the country estate where her daughter Cora lives with husband Robert, head of the Crawley clan. Those expectations were met:
Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) to Cora: “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her, I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”
Matthew Crawley: “But isn’t she American?”
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The Brit melodrama — whose Season 3 premiere drew a bigger share of viewers in Seattle than in any other U.S. city — has spawned countless spoofs. So it’s no surprise a cookbook, liberally seasoned with the Crawleys and their cadre of servants, would surface.
“The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding” (Adams Media, $21.95), by Emily Ansara Baines, promises more than “150 recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs.”
Noted on its cover: “This book is unofficial and unauthorized. It is not authorized, approved, licensed, or endorsed by Carnival Film & Television Ltd., its writers or producers, or any of its licensees.”
Fans of the show will enjoy the name dropping and references to the first two seasons, from Mrs. Patmore’s Dropped Roasted Chicken to the Upstairs Anchovy-Onion Tarts. “It’s likely that Lady Mary would stay away from this particular hors d’oeuvre as it would give her bad breath — and then the charming Pamuk might never want to kiss her,” writes Ansara Baines.
Bubble and squeak’s there; so are Lancashire hot pot and Bakewell tarts.
While the book has it charms, seasoned cooks and those with a knowledge of English cookery may look askance at a few recipes — shepherd’s pie topped with pastry, not mashed potatoes? And with the Edwardian era fading and Crawley wealth diminishing, the excesses of French food offered seem a bit much for rural landed gentry.