Wednesday 25 April 2007
The Technical Department produced for me the other day a copy of Julian Barnes' 'Pedant in the Kitchen', which I polished off practically in one sitting, and heartily recommend to anybody kitchen-focused in any way. He lauds the greats: Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David; Pomiane (of course) along with a few that I would have distinct reservations about (Nigel Slater, for instance, and Simon Hopkinson) and even shamelessly admits to an ongoing relationship with Delia! Stories of recipes that don't work (and never could have, on examination) ring all too true, along with titivated photography and incompetent editing. On average, I found myself guffawing aloud approximately every ten pages, which I think is pretty good going.....
With apologies to Mr Barnes, he doesn't come across as a very confident cook, and what he describes as 'pedantry' seems to me to be nervous over-reliance on direction from others and a lack of confidence in his own judgment. Which is what you can only get from lots of experience, Mr B. In reading the 'Pedant' I was repeatedly reminded of James Hamilton-Patterson's 'Cooking with Fernet Branca', which again I would highly recommend - even despite the uncomfortable awareness that creeps up in the course of reading that in fact the person he's making fun of is anybody in danger of taking cooking too seriously ......i.e You, Dear Reader! From the outset, reference to bizarre ingredients (Otter in Lobster Sauce, for instance) causes the raising of a quizzical eyebrow, but it is only as we proceed through 'My own recipe for fishcake - a bit tricky to ice properly' and 'Terrine of Jack Russell - hellish beasts to bone' that the penny conclusively drops. And for the true pedant, the fact that by the end of the book, measurements are given in precise fractions of grammes, of degrees and of minutes, should provide a welcome basis for confidence!
Back into the Kitchen, Mr Barnes - get practising!
Beef Salad, with Mache and Rocket leaves, in an agrodolce dressing
Seared Salmon Fillet, with Lardon Sauce, served with Endive and Leek sweated together in Butter.