Starting Up with Sophie Grigson @ The Story Museum

It’s been four months now since we plunged into a glorious stockpot of stories and legends in the heart of Oxford’s newest and most imaginative museum.

The kitchen at the Story Museum has become my second home, a place to dream up soups and salads and cakes good enough to tempt the fussiest Hansels and Gretels.

Stories and food are a fertile allotment for all sorts of good things. We’ve had Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cakes and Lemony Snicket’s Very Fluffy Delicous Cake. Alice’s Eat Me Cakes are almost too obvious, and anything with blueberries in it makes me think of poor spoilt Violet Beauregarde.

Coming into the kitchen in the dark January mornings remind me of one of my favourite books, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, where little Micky dream-slides down into a surreal night-shadowed kitchen, full of oversized bowls and bottles.

Our menu has taken shape slowly, evolving around the daily soup (anything from comforting curried parsnip, to delicious sweet potato with kaffir lime and coconut milk), and the essential glory cake that occupies pride of place on the cafe counter.

So now we have salads and a simple main dish to sample, as well as biscuits, brownies, and our incredibly morish new Miss Honey Buns.

I wanted to call our Italian bean and vegetable soup, Pinocchio’s Lobster Caviar Bisque, but in the end we thought that the trading standards officers might not get the joke.

There’s certainly something creative in the air here at The Story Museum.

There are new things going on all the time. One of December’s highlights was having Robin Hemmings’ amazing Snow and Tell Christmas show which gave the place a great buzz and reminded us all that stories are for giving and sharing. Ahead of us lie new tales to cook to, Harry Potter day and, way ahead, the wonderful Alice’s day.

On a smaller scale, our children’s cookery classes continue every Saturday morning. Now that the hump-backed whale of Christmas has gone, we’re abandoning sticky snowball cakes, strawberry brownie Santa Hats and sugary gifts, to concentrate on other areas, from Peter’s Pan Pizza to our Easter special, Great Eggspectations. I’m particularly looking forward to the Just William Picnic, perfect for scruffy outlaws.

Whatever the theme, the children who come along to our classes, cook something to eat there and then, and also something to take back home with them.

There’ll also be plenty of new stories to get your teeth into with our new Stories on Toast every Sunday.

We’re offering a very special all-day brunch where you can pick a topping for your toast and enjoy a story to match your choice.

We’ve got stories featuring mushrooms and fairy rings, honey and magic handbags and even a couple of stories just about toast. What better way to spend a lazy Sunday than feeding your imagination and your tummy!

As one of my New Year Resolutions I’m planning to read The Scarlet Pimpernel which is one of the books featured in The Story Museum’s 26 Characters exhibition, so maybe we’ll have to invent some Pimpernel pies.

Perhaps you can also help us? We’d like to invite readers to think about some great story-inspired cake names for our café.

Come and drop your entries into our suggestions box in the café and we’ll select a lucky winner who can come and see their cake made and named in the café in February.

Sophie’s Kitchen at The Story Museum can be found at 42 Pembroke Street, Oxford. Open Tuesday to Sunday. Sophie’s Cookery Classes run every Saturday from 11am-12.30pm at The Story Museum. Visit

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