Saturday, November 29, 2014


Just outside the kitchen is a little bookshelf crammed with cookbooks. I've counted them. There are 58. Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Bill Granger, Nigella Lawson, the usual… plus a lot of Japanese, Thai and Chinese. Liz is a great cook, but I think even she would confess to trying out just a fraction of the recipes they contain. 
Cookbooks are a bit like exhibition catalogues. They're so tempting: the photography, the sleek design, the celebrity coolness of the artist, and of course the works therein. But I don't really read exhibition catalogues. They just sit on our shelves looking nice, and perhaps give the impression that we are more cultured than we really are. But once in a while we get the cookbooks out, and did so today. It surprised me how many recipes Liz had put to practice, even though we now cater rather more for slightly fussy children and rather less for dinner parties. 
When did Brits become foodies? In my teenage years food was basic and unglamorous. I didn't complain, it was all we knew, but British food had a well-earned reputation for being boring. And then, somehow it all changed. Delia Smith arrived (I mean, she & her food weren't glamorous but everybody watched her on TV and bought her books). M&S started to sell decent sandwiches. Mother's Pride was out, brown wholewheat with added grain was in. Indian and health-food took off. Tescos, Sainsburys and Waitrose stocked ten types of humous. The twentysomething Jamie Oliver beckoned in the era of 'celebrity chefs'. Michelin star restaurants sprang up like weeds. Food was the new… well, what was it? Food was the new lifestyle. 
So, armed with a choice of 58 books, which should I choose? Funnily enough, I went for Fiona Watt's Beginners Cookbook which is actually for children, starting them early, grooming them for chiefdom - or at least toy eat more healthily. It's got a failsafe pizza base recipe, but this evening I chose chicken & bacon taglietelle. They didn't like it.

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