Books, life the universe

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Pretentious cookery

I finished reading Daisy Garnett's Cooking Lessons last night - a combination of cooking and memoir which appealed to me. The book itself was a huge let down as far as I was concerned. It's beautifully produced - about A5 size - has a substantial feel to it and is printed on good quality paper. The illustrations are charming and in the style of water colours. I can't identify with her lifestyle which is sort of luxurious Bohemian though not the sort of Bohemian life I'd want to lead if I was rich. That is not a criticism as I enjoy reading about other people's lifestyles.

My main criticism is that the recipes are in general complicated, in many cases adaptations of someone else's - though the source is identified - take too long to make for an ordinary individual with a life to lead apart from food and many of the ingredients are hard to source unless you live in a city or want to buy much of your food by mail order. There are many spelling mistakes which should have been picked up by the editor or the proof reader and there are far too many instances of the f word in my opinion. Is there really a need for swearing in a cookery book - unless you happen to be Gordon Ramsay?

When I came to a recipe for Shepherd's Pie containing 19 separate ingredients I rather lost patience with the whole thing. Shepherd's Pie is meant to be something comforting which you sling together when you want to eat something simple with a minimum amount of preparation.

No ordinary person buys a special Tarte Tatin pan - a snip at only £25 - unless they are determined to make that particular dessert every day of the week! Likewise if you're making Tiramasiu you're probably going to use Tia Maria in it rather than a special Italian liqueur called Caffe Borghetti which is probably unobtainable outside Italy, or a particular type of biscuit - easily obtainable from your local Italian grocer. Hello? I live in darkest Lincolnshire. I could probably get anything Polish from our local Polish grocers - but Italian - now that's another matter.

I could go on - but you get the picture. I'm just glad I didn't pay for it otherwise I'd have been extremely disappointed.


NAM said...

Good grief! I'd go even further: Shepherd's pie should really be something a shepherd could have made in the days when they lived in huts, surrounded by their flocks. Anything as elaborate as this is - well, heaven knows. 'Pretentious' is probably quite kindly as a description.

I feel that cookery/ food books divide into two classes. The ones you use (e g Good Kousekeeping and Florence Greenberg's 'Jewish Cookery' in our house), and the others, which I would more or less class as fiction (hmm, maybe a cookery book format would make a good novel). Certainly they're for reading rather than any great amount of application.

Jilly said...

I quite like Nigel Slater and Delia because at least you can make and eat their recipes, but this really annoyed me as you can tell. Yes a cookery book would make a good format for a novel - there are some out there which have recipes - not quite the same thing though.