The Boxers: ‘My interest in food is partly greed but also emotional hunger’
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A typical clan gathering with the Boxers is a beautifully rambunctious scene: events are typically held either in West Sussex or in the sumptuous private dining room of the Grade II-listed Georgian Brunswick House where Jackson Boxer opened his restaurant 12 years ago. “It’s a wonderful, anarchic kind of shed full of chandeliers,” says the chef-patron.
He’s fixing the food in the kitchen. His mother, painter Kate, is entertaining two of his four children, Ruscha, five, and Marlowe, three, who are skittering about underneath the table. Their mother, fashion designer Melissa, a Pre-Raphaelite beauty with long dark hair, nurses nine-week-old Dima in her arms. Dressed in a 1970s maxi dress, Roma, nine, is dancing about the room while Jackson’s father, Italo Deli owner Charlie, plays the fiddle.
It’s bohemian but with backbone, as you might expect from the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of one of the cooking world’s grande dames, Arabella Boxer. “Jackson was making up recipes and creating recipe books as soon as he could write,” says Kate. Adds Jackson: “Having this kind of lovely, joyful celebration of each other and food is kind of intrinsic to our family. My interest in food was partly genuine greed but also partly an emotional hunger for this magical childhood that Mum and Dad created for me and my brother.”
The suckling pig is brought out, surrounded by fennel (“a happy pairing”). “There’s something very, very primal about presenting the table with an entire animal cooked slowly and lovingly,” says Jackson. “It speaks to that sense of a heritage celebration. Big, lavish, triumphal to place on the table. No one does it, but it’s really easy and fun to do. You just put it in for four or five hours, and then whack up the temperature at the end to crisp the skin.”
That sense of tradition echoes as the children dash around in their vintage finds. “I gravitate to historical clothing,” says Melissa. “I love Victorian, Edwardian, ’20s, ’30s and ’70s, then finding a way of combining them.” The aesthetic is matched on the table: crockery, cutlery and candlesticks are a mix of junk-shop finds, designer-maker and heirloom pieces – some chipped, laughs Kate, all loved.
Glasses of wine are topped up and the golden crispy roasted potatoes continually nibbled. But pudding never quite materialises. “Often it’s an afterthought,” confesses Jackson. Everyone agrees that Charlie is the king of dessert – incredible crumbles, steamed puddings and rice puddings – while Kate is queen of autumnal pastries. But no one seems to notice there’s nothing sweet to eat today. They’re too busy chatting, dancing and playing.