EXCLUSIVE: Annabel Abbs’ period cookery novel Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen is set for a television adaptation after CBS Studios and Stampede Ventures optioned the rights.
The two companies struck a deal for the screen rights to the book, which is being published by William Morrow and Simon & Schuster UK. It is the latest project to emerge out of Stampede Ventures’ first-look deal that the companies signed last September.
The book tells the story of an English poet, Eliza Acton, who dreams of seeing her words in print. However, when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that “poetry is not the business of a lady.” Instead, they want her to write a cookery book.
England in 1837 is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits, and that’s what publishers want from women. Despite never having cooked, Eliza is determined to learn. To assist her, she hires 17-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-disabled father and a mother with dementia. Over the course of 10 years, Eliza and Ann develop an unusual friendship that crosses social classes. Together, they break the mold of traditional cookbooks, changing the course of cookery writing forever.
The book will be published in the U.S. in fall 2021 and in the UK in spring 2022 as The Language of Food. It is Abbs’ third book after The Joyce Girl and Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley.
Abbs is represented by Sharon Galant of the Zeitgeist Agency, and U.S. book rights were handled by Claire Anderson-Wheeler of Regal Hoffman Agency. Screen rights are repped by Rebecca Watson at Valerie Hoskins Associates.
“When I inherited a collection of antiquarian cookery books I suspected a story might be lurking in one of them,” Abbs said. “Researching and writing the story of Britain’s first domestic goddess has been a wonderful culinary adventure which I’m looking forward to sharing.”
JP Sarni of Stampede Ventures International added: “Annabel Abbs has crafted a most charming tale in Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen. The delights of modern cookery will not be lost on readers and audiences who have spent the last year learning how to bake bread whilst at home. Beyond that, it’s also an incredible story of two resilient women who forged their path and found their voice in a very different time. We’re delighted to be adapting this for the screen alongside our partners at CBS Studios.”
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