There have been many legendary chef clashes over the years, most of which seem to involve Gordon Ramsay. He’s been at loggerheads with everyone from Jamie Oliver to Marcus Wareing, Mario Batali and his former mentor, Marco Pierre White.

The king of the culinary feuds has to be the late Anthony Bourdain, however. He took aim at a long list of fellow American celebrity chefs, including the restauranteur, author and activist Alice Waters, and TV personality and cookery show presenter, Paula Deen.

Then there’s the infamous spat between Martha Stewart and actress turned cookery and lifestyle blogger, Gwyneth Paltrow.

But few of today’s crazy chef grudges can match that which raged between the leading light of the 18th century kitchen, Hannah Glasse, and the aptly named Ann Cook.

The quarrel between the two Hexham women dripped with vitriol, and now the bitter disagreement is being laid bare for modern ears in two unique theatrical dinner experiences.Foods and Feuds

Acclaimed Morpeth-based performing arts company November Club has joined forces with two of the North East’s leading restaurants to tell the story of Hannah and Ann’s venomous war of words.

Foods and Feuds: Two Cooks of Hexham, will play out at intimate performances in Newcastle on March 30 at Blackfriars Restaurant and April 1 at sister eatery, Dobson & Parnell.

An imaginary time travelling performance, food, feuding, drama, and laughter are promised as Hannah Glasse and Ann Cook are brought together in the same room (something that would probably have resulted in paring knives at dawn in their own time).

Even the redoubtable Mrs Beeton – whose Book of Household Management published in 1861 sadly eclipsed Hannah’s own gastronomic endeavour, effectively consigning her to the food wilderness - will be making an appearance as she helps umpire the unfolding feud.

Yet Hannah was as famous in her time as any of today’s celebrity chefs.

Foods and FeudsIndeed, Hannah is considered by many to be the original Domestic Goddess, long before Nigella Lawson adopted the title. Her first recipe book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, was published in 1747, and became an instant bestseller. It was reprinted at least 20 times over the next 100 years, and became one of the most popular cookery books in colonial America. It is said to have been owned by American presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as well as Benjamin Franklin.

Hannah is regarded as the pioneer of easy to understand recipes. She is also credited with coining the name Yorkshire pudding (before her this Sunday roast staple was known simply as ‘dripping pudding’), and introducing the first documented British curry recipe, or as she termed it in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, ‘Currey the Indian Way.’

Ann’s own recipe book, the catchily titled Professed Cookery: containing boiling, roasting, preserving, potting, pickling, made-wines, gellies, and part of confectionaries, was published in 1754, and itself went on to become a bestseller, although it never achieved the same dizzying success as Hannah’s work.

Yet nearly three centuries on, Hannah, Ann, their recipe books, and bitter feud, have been largely forgotten.

Which made the Northern culinary heroines story ripe for the retelling by November Club, which is well-known for performing original, playful and inspiring theatre, knitting together historical and contemporary themes involving untold and unexpected tales about real-life people and places.

Despite its name, Foods and Feuds: Two Cooks of Hexham, is, says November Club’s artistic director, Cinzia Hardy, a celebration “of both these strong, opinionated and underrated women for what they achieved in inhospitable times and recognises them for the pioneering characters they were.”

It is actually the second time that November Club has collaborated with Blackfriars Restaurant to tell this particular story. A slimmed down version was trailed at Blackfriars Cookery School in spring last year. Its positive reception encouraged Cinzia and writer Fiona Ellis, to put more flesh on the bone.

This beefed-up production returns to Newcastle having on March 19 sated the appetite of food lovers in Cambridge, where November Club will be performing it as part of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Feast and Fast exhibition. 

Andy Hook is pleased to again be playing host to November Club at Blackfriars Cookery School, and also Dobson & Parnell, where chef-patron Troy Terrington, will be helping to weave the action around the food with a five-course tasting menu that will reflect some of Hannah’s seasonal recipes.

Blackfriars has built up a deserved reputation for its traditional British menu which capitalises on seasonal and local produce (just the sort of food that Hannah and Ann would have championed), and the audience can look forward to a set dinner either before or after the performance that reflects this home-grown ethos.

Andy says: “I am delighted and thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a prestigious company as November Club and to be involved in such an amazing story. To have the story told in our very own cookery school of one of the most celebrated cooks harking from the region is just wonderful, and we’re very much looking forward to it.”  

What was it, however, that first attracted Cinzia and Fiona to Hannah and Ann’s story? After all, the North East is a land of myths and legends. And if it was a bitter feud they wanted to home in on, they could have had their pick of sporting rivalries or aristocratic shenanigans.

“Telling the untold stories of people from our region makes for fascinating storytelling,” Cinzia explains. “But there is something particularly mesmerising about the enmity between Hannah and Ann.

“It involves food, two feisty women making their mark in a man’s world, status, a feud that bridged the miles between what was then the small market town of Hexham and London, which was one of the 18th century’s most multi-cultural and sophisticated cities, and the power of the written word in an age when, to quote Voltaire, ‘to hold a pen is to be at war.’

“Hannah wrote what is probably the most successful cookery book of all time. Yet despite her book’s success she sadly saw little of the proceeds while others made small fortunes on the back of her talent. Women all over the world will recognise that injustice.

“Add to that the reason why such an important woman has been largely forgotten and the feud with Ann Cook, and you have a very entertaining and exciting story, one that also happens to include something we are obsessed by: food.”

But who were Hannah and Ann? And what prompted Ann to write her own cookery book that over 70 pages – including an eight page poem – heaped insult on her rival?

Hannah was actually born in London in 1708. The illegitimate daughter of Isaac Allgood, a wealthy Northumberland landowner, he brought Hannah to live with him and his family at Simonburn, near Hexham.

At the age of 16, Hannah married an Irish soldier, John Glasse, and moved to London. There the couple are thought to have had as many as 11 children, not all of whom survived. John died in 1747, and to help make ends meet Hannah set herself up as a dressmaker in Covent Garden, whilst at the same time publishing The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, whose authorship was attributed simply as ‘By a Lady.’

It wasn’t until the fourth imprint that Hannah’s real name appeared on the cover.

The book was a runaway success. But Hannah wasn’t a good businesswoman. In 1754 she became bankrupt and was forced to sell her most prized asset: the copyright for The Art of Cookery.

Around this time Ann, who had been the landlady of what was The Black Bull on Hexham marketplace but had since herself moved to London, published Professed Cookery, later editions of which contained ‘an essay upon the lady’s Art of Cookery,’ which was a clear attack on Hannah.

The book – in which Ann titled herself as ‘the Teacher of the True Art of Cookery’ - was a vehicle for getting back at Lancelot Allgood, Hannah’s half-brother who had lived across the marketplace from the Cook’s.

There was bad blood between Ann’s husband and Lancelot, fuelled in part by the Cook’s Catholic Jacobite leanings and the Allgood’s support for the Protestant Hanoverians. It is said that the Cook’s were driven out of Hexham by Lancelot, first to Morpeth and later London.

Ann would have most likely known that Hannah was illegitimate, hence ruthlessly calling her out for claiming to be ‘a lady,’ and also for the multitude of errors she allegedly found in The Art of Cookery.

Hannah went on to write two more books, The Servants Directory, and The Compleat [Sic] Confectioner, but neither achieved the success of her first endeavour.

Little is known of Hannah’s final years. She eventually died at the age of 62 in 1770.

Cinzia says: “The story of Hannah and Ann is a real 18th century food fight. They say there is no honour amongst thieves, well there is none amongst cooks either. Ann took culinary feuding to a new level.

“Deep down, I think we all love a good public row, especially when it involves sexual scandal, bankruptcy, rivalry and a bitter family feud. This tale has it all.”

Foods and Feuds: Two Cooks of Hexham will be at:

Blackfriars Cookery School, Newcastle, on March 30. Two performances will be held at 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Tickets cost £57.50 and include a set menu dinner served in Blackfriars Banqueting Hall at 7.15pm. Visit   https://www.blackfriarsrestaurant.co.uk/events-and-offers/day/30-03-2020 for more information and to book.

Dobson and Parnell, Newcastle, on April 1 at 7pm. Tickets cost £79 to include a glass of fizz and canapes on arrival and a five-course tasting menu served throughout and woven into the performance. https://www.dobsonandparnell.co.uk/foods-feuds-wed-1-april/

Article by Jane Hall of Smart Cookie Media.

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