IF SOMEONE IN DEVON CAN CONJURE UP a space big…
MENTION OF SIR WALTER RALEIGH in our last issue and the suggestion that he was responsible for triggering the behaviour of generations of chip-scavenging Devon seagulls by introducing potatoes into this country, prompted a reader to remind us that he was also amongst the first to bring tobacco to England, via Devon.
First bales were landed at Bideford but it was in Dartmouth where he and his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert had a warehouse full of the stuff.
Take a river trip down the Dart to Agatha Christie’s mansion, Greenway (formerly Sir Humphrey’s home) and the man who drives the boat will point out the site of the warehouse on the opposite bank. This, he says, is where Walter had a bucket of water thrown over him whilst smoking, by a servant, who thought he was on fire.
Agatha Christie on the other hand, who was born in Torquay, never smoked. A nurse during the Great War (when the public was encouraged to send troops cigarettes because they needed “tobacco as much as bullets”) she felt obliged to apologise, in an interview, for not embracing the weed. She had tried many times, she said, but just could not like it. Good girl,
But as for potatoes: in 1940, she was asked to contribute to one of the earliest celebrity cookbooks, A Kitchen Goes to War: recipes included ‘Sir Kenneth Clark’s Ham Roll Salad’, a recipe from music hall star Jack Warner called ‘Cheese and Chutney Crackers’ and ‘Agatha Christie’s Mystery Potatoes’.