PPC 92 (March 2011)
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
LYNNE CHATTERTON is an Australian now living in Umbria, where she and her husband cultivate olives. Brian Chatterton was formerly Minister of Agriculture in South Australia and together they have considerable expertise in matters agricultural, particularly dryland farming. ANDREW DALBY has written on the history of languages, of food, and of Wikipedia. His most recent work is his translation of Geoponika for Prospect Books; his next is a translation of Walter of Bibbesworth’s Treatise which we also intend publishing some time later this year. KYLE MCKIBBEN was brought up near Glasgow, but defected to pork-eating Edinburgh in his twenties. He hates the goatiness of goats’ cheese. STEPHEN MASSIL is a librarian, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a regular participant in the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. NAWAL NASRALLAH was born in Iraq and was professor at Baghdad and Mosul universities, teaching English and American Literatures, 1977–90. She is the author of Delights from the Garden of Eden, an historical cookbook of Iraqi cuisine. She now lives in America. CLARE PAWLEY is a photographer and lives in South Devon. DAWN STARIN is an anthropologist and honorary research associate at UCL, London. She has spent decades studying and writing about the people and the wildlife of Africa and Asia. EILEEN WHITE lives in Bradford and is involved with the Leeds Symposium on Food History, having edited and contributed to many of the proceedings published by Prospect.
DEALING WITH FOOD
It was good to read a piece by B.R. Myers in a recent issue of The Atlantic called ‘The Moral Crusade Against Foodies’ which takes a stand against the juggernaut that is our current obsession with food and pleasure (exemplified in the article by the works of Anthony Bourdain, Gabrielle Hamilton [Blood, Bones and Butter], Kim Severson [Spoon Fed], Jeffrey Steingarten, and Michael Pollan). Myers writes as a vegan, which perhaps skews his perceptions. He has written before on this topic (as well as on North Korea), in particular a vigorous critique of Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. He reserves his special bile for foodies who deploy moral arguments to justify one form of meat-eating or another: seeing greater moral worth, for example, in free range or organic meat. But he is happy to take a swing at many behavioural traits, and the prose style, of those who write about food. There is something quite tiring about our current level of preoccupation, as well as its depressing repetitiveness. I must admit that I thought we had settled all the questions that seem to vex the present generation some thirty to fifty years ago. It seems to be taking an unconsciable time to filter down. Questions such as: Should one eat processed foods? Should you try to grow your own? Should you buy from local producers? Should you encourage artisan methods? Should you buy fish from day boats? Should you hate supermarkets? Should you eschew most forms of industrial agriculture? These don’t seem to me difficult enquiries, nor moral ones. And most of us posed them many years since. Their constant reiteration, with more or less pomposity, alarmism and wittering is just boring. Which brings me to my next subject. My daughter Matilda now keeps a restaurant. Her husband Paul Adams is the chef, and they are in partnership with Matt and Amanda Wrisdale at the Tollemache Arms, Buckminster, on the border of Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. It is a short diversion from the Great North Road, at about the latitude of Grantham, and I hope that readers may find a visit enjoyable. Matilda is the third generation of our family to go in for this way of life and it has been pleasing to see how she took to it. The Tollemache is in shooting and hunting country. The pattern of business is not that of west London, where she earned her spurs, as well as meeting Paul. They are still acclimatizing, getting used to winter evenings with very few customers to cheer them along. And we note how eager we are to have news of their state of trade, to sympathize with the dull stretches, to applaud the busy nights. Re-engaging in this way with the restaurant business (we worked our last shift at the Carved Angel in 1984) provokes a reappraisal and a memory of what enthused us about the whole affair in the first place. If what is happening today is mere repetition of our debates of the 1970s, this would dissipate any sense of purpose and excitement. It would merely enrage us that so many people had not yet seen the light. So what aspect of cooking and catering would make the bone marrow tremble? My nearest approach to an answer involved some form of culinary self-sufficiency. The answers to the questions posed above seem to me to be givens, leaving the real adventure in some other angle on the venture. Currently, that angle is in the housekeeping rather than the cooking. Were I, God forbid, to have to do it all again, I think I might be more interested in the production of the basic goods than in the finished dishes. The chapters of old cookery books that now hold my attention are those that detail how to make butter, how to brine meats, how to preserve, how to make sausages and pork products, how to pickle, how to make cheese – all those things, indeed, that the students of the proposed university of artisan food technicians are going to learn. If one became entirely self-sustaining in this way, short of going into farming, then one could impart real identity and character to the restaurant one was running. This is hardly anything new; indeed, it is perhaps the ineluctable tendency of British commercial cooking over the last couple of decades. So I hope that Paul Adams is reading this and that the Tollemache will be as famous for its pork pies, clotted cream and sausages as it will surely be for its excellent roasts and sautées.
The twenty-sixth Leeds Symposium on Food History and Traditions is announced for Saturday 16 April 2011. The subject is ‘Pigs and their Products – A Second Bite’ and it is being held at The Friends Meeting House, Friargate, York. The fee is £20 and enquiries should be addressed to C. Anne Wilson, c/o Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. The talks include Laura Mason on Lard, Dr Steph Mastoris on Cultural Attitudes to Pig and Pork Products, Gillian Riley on Images of Pigs, Peter Brears on Pig Products and Puddings, and John Hudson on Pigs and his Childhood. The bring-your-own lunch is always worth a detour.
In the last issue I reported on my wife’s letter to The Guardian about the origins of prawn cocktail. Mary Williamson in Ontario has very kindly written with some more information from North America. She has unearthed a recipe from The Wimodausis Club Cook Book (3rd edition), Toronto 1934. This reads:
Prawn or Shrimp Cocktail Mrs A. L. Ellsworth 1. The making of the sauce. Take 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise sauce, same amount of tomato catsup, add a little cream, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, squeeze a little lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then mix well together. 2. Shell prawns or shrimps, chop a few lettuce leaves, and place same in a silver cup or glass placing the prawns on top, then pour the sauce over, sprinkle a little chopped parsley. 3. This should be served slightly iced, buttered brown bread served at the same time.
She then goes on to remind us of the Mariani Encylopedia entry which states that ‘“shrimp cocktail” is a variation on the “oyster cocktail”, created in about 1860 by a San Franciscan miner who dipped his oysters in ketchup.’ Her search of the New York Times archive found the only mention before 1930 was, ‘a series of ads for a brand of ketchup, and you simply dunked your shrimps in the ketchup to create a shrimp cocktail.’ She remarks that she does have Toronto recipes back to the early 1900s for oyster cocktail and crabmeat cocktail with the same sauce but the earliest printed recipe she has found is indeed the 1934 citation. In closing, she observes that in the late 1920s, ‘both of the big Toronto department stores were advertising shrimp cocktail to begin a midday dinner in their restaurants.’
Andrew Whitley has sent through his latest prospectus of bread courses for 2011. They address many aspects: Fundamental, Intermediate, Advanced; Baking for a Living; Skilling for Powerdown; French Breads; Sourdough for All; Italian Baking; Whole Grain Baking. These residential courses take place at Macbie Hill Farmhouse, Lamancha, West Lynton, Peebles, EH46 9AZ (www.breadmatters.com).
John Newton in New South Wales (firstname.lastname@example.org) is organizing a cheese tour of northern Spain to run from April 28th to May 9th, the highlight being the Trujillo Cheese Fair.
One of the most interesting reports on obesity in the last few months related to the increase in weight in adult males in England from 1986 to 2000. The average male Briton put on more than a stone (17 lb) in this period. The average female put on 12 lb. What I found most gripping about this were the reasons adduced. Approximately 7 lb of the male increase was due to a reduction in physical activity but more than 10 lb of the male and all of the female increase was explained by the fact that we are eating a larger number of calories. Interestingly, The Guardian interpreted that last statement as ‘more food’ but one has to presume that what they were really saying was more filth.
Epikur: Journal für Gastrosophie is an online journal from the University of Salzburg’s Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Gastrosophie. It is a cracking read, some in English, and has lots of book reviews. For non-German readers there can be no better sport than putting the text into Google’s translation wizard and seeing what emerges.
FIRE AND KNIVES
I do not think I have mentioned this food quarterly which recently celebrated its first anniversary. Just above A5 in format, its editor is Tim Hayward. It costs £9.50 an issue, is printed in full colour but with very little in the way of gastroporn (I apologize for using this term). If you can’t find it in a bookshop go to www.fireandknives.com. Typographically it’s much more energetic and imaginative than PPC. How should one describe its contents? I think you’d call it middlebrow and that’s not a criticism. In other words it’s good food journalism, not snooty, full of curiosity and vim.
HESTON’S NEW RESTAURANT
The Jaines had another moment of glory in The Guardian’s correspondence columns this quarter, provoked this time by Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant on Hyde Park which, I am sure you have all read, explores the heritage of English cookery. The excitement and thrill of such a development should not be ignored. Those who saw Blumenthal’s speculative feasts on television will realize that his take on a historical model will travel a considerable distance from the original, but no matter if the result is a better appreciation of where we came from. The press accounts of his first meals left the curious reader with more questions than answers, particularly Tristram Hunt’s story of his dinner in The Guardian. Tristram Hunt, now a labour MP, is an historian by trade (a biographer of Engels). His knowledge of food history, however, seemed a mite spotty. My published cavil was his description of a rhubarb dish. I quote, ‘there was always poached rhubarb (c 1590) – here, with rosehips and rhubarb sorbet. Sugar from north Africa was part of British cooking in the 16th century, but it was a relative rarity until the plantations of the Caribbean began to be exploited in the mid-17th century. In its absence, rhubarb served as a sweetener and Blumenthal has crafted a dish which exhilaratingly combines room temperature rhubarb with ice-cold sorbet.’ As any reader of Rhubarbaria will know, the first rhubarb plants weren’t grown until 40 years after Elizabeth’s death and weren’t really eaten until the next century. Any modern cook will know it ain’t no sweetener and there certainly isn’t a recipe dating from 1590. Another letter to the paper took Hunt to task for his reference to rosbifs. Hunt thought the term a late-eighteenth century French homage to our skill at roasting meat while more accurately it was an earlier insult. Gilly Lehmann contributed her tithe in an interesting message to me. She notes the roast quail offered at lunch times which, the menu states, is ‘inspired’ by A Boke of Cookrye, 1591. The recipe in question reads as follows: ‘Roste a Quaile.With his legs broken and knit one within an other.’ As she comments, ‘So much for history as inspiration.’ Hunt has another intriguing paragraph which reads like this: ‘Of course, the service system – of three courses presented and cleared away – is an anachronism. Tudor eating habits, for example, involved the use of a slice of bread as the vehicle for a range of dishes and sauces spread out across the table, each one scooped out with the diner’s little finger. Restaurants, as we know them, only began during the early 19th century in post-revolutionary France. Even then, the majority of diners ate their food with all courses on display. The Victorians were renowned for piling as much meat, fish, jellies, soups and vegetables on the table as possible. But I gallantly accept the compromise of the modern three courses.’ This contains so many misapprehensions and inaccuracies that there seems no point in further remark. It’s all very intriguing and one certainly shouldn’t take Mr Blumenthal to task for the fatuities of journalists. His cooking, by all accounts, is top notch.
There is an advertisement airing on British television that shows a bunch of children at play, as happy as happy can be save for their lack of kit: no hoops, no balls, no hoppers. A voiceover is instantly recognizable as Jamie Oliver, and we catch a brief glimpse of him mixing with the kids. His presence lends gravitas to the message of the ad: buy more from Sainsbury’s and the grocer will buy schools sports equipment on our behalf. The self-interest of doing good is a trope adored by supermarkets (Tesco did it with computers). Oliver has been the spokesman for Sainsbury since his first TV appearance as a chummy Essex boy who cooked enthusiastically. In the intervening years there has been a steady development towards some form of secular sainthood through a series of apparently selfless good deeds involving cooking and education (in the broadest sense). It would be difficult to take moral issue with any of them. And Oliver has shown himself to be far cannier, sympathetic and intelligent than one would ever have first expected. However, I cannot be the only one who finds his career disquieting, even sinister, while outwardly wholly admirable. No good deed is entirely without some pay-off in sustenance. Even hermits have to live, for death ends everything (save miracles beyond the grave). But Oliver has developed this aspect to a very high degree (£40 million at the last newspaper story). It is sometimes difficult to remember that each wizard wheeze of do-goodery he embarks upon earns him and his burgeoning team a shedload of money. This is sainthood as enterprise. While accepting that Oliver’s development may be entirely his own creation, I am struck by the tremendous synergy of his persona and the public image desired by Sainsbury’s, his sponsors. Is this the source of all his brilliant ideas for our improvement? Has each step in his career been crafted by the supermarket’s advertising agency to elevate him to this astonishing pre-eminence?
EVELYN’S NASTURTIUM CAPERS
The whisky and whiskey blogger Matthew Rowley (http://matthew-rowley.blogspot.com) is always worth reading, not least because he has been very kind about Prospect Books at one time or another. Most recently, he has been experimenting with making capers out of nasturtium pods under the guidance of John Evelyn’s Acetaria (and, more recently, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall). His forte is of course distilled spirits and you will learn much from reading his regular commentary.
FRANCE AND GM MAIZE
Peter Crosskey is fast becoming our French correspondent and sent me this story from his desk on an ever-interesting topic: ‘France has added 38 varieties of genetically modified (GM) maize to the national catalogue of approved seed varieties, allowing them to be sold but not, as yet, cultivated. Food and farming minister Bruno Le Maire signed a ministerial decree to this effect while tidying up administrative loose ends prior to going on holiday, a surprisingly effective subterfuge even by French standards. ‘The GM interlopers were spotted when decree AGRG1016697A surfaced in the Journal Officiel on July 25 2010, but the media response to the warnings from Greenpeace and family-farmers’ national body, the Confédération Paysanne (Conf’), was one of muted bemusement. To be sure, Agence France Presse syndicated a basic article, but the food and farming ministry in rue de Varenne could add little to the story during the holiday period. Indeed, the ministry’s initial startled response to enquiries (in fluent French) from the UK was to suggest contacting the environment ministry. ‘Predictably in all this, the running was being made by France’s seed industry, which earned €2.48 billion last year, of which €900 million came from export sales (42 per cent of that in maize and sorghum). A beleaguered ministry press officer eventually explained that the decree did not change the current status of GM maize crops, but that the minister’s decision was a required response to an injunction issued by France’s supreme constitutional court, the Conseil d’Etat, on behalf of the seed producers. ‘Director of the national seed trade association, the Groupement National Interprofessionnel des Semences et plants (GNIS), Philippe Gracien, cheerfully accuses France of “having one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator,” describing the government position as being a paradox. His members, however, will still need a green light for cultivation before growing seed crops on French territory, although that would not significantly affect the trade. ‘Le Maire’s decree bears a striking resemblance to a proposal published by the European Commission on July 15 2010, which in its current form would require member states to trade in GM stock, regardless of national policy. Proposals emanating from the Commission can take up to two years to be ratified, according to a spokesman in the health directorate, which now oversees the development and implementation of EU policy on GM products. ‘While Gracien is adamant that the timing of Le Maire’s decree is coincidental, the appearance of pre-emptive compliance is strong enough to merit the denial. In practice the Commission’s proposal has been given a real leg-up by the French minister, however contrite his signature on the decree. ‘The French action has, indeed, triggered a default EU-wide de facto acceptance of the GM maize varieties at seed list level, a necessary first step for their eventual full authorization. Regardless of French national policy on cultivation, French seed producers will be able to trade the listed varieties across the EU, wherever GM cultivation is authorized. ‘Conf’ national secretary Michel David denounces “the manoeuvres by the ministry of agriculture, which is bending over backwards to meet the wishes of the seed industry to kill off the moratorium on GM crops during the summer ceasefire.” The current administrative constraints are, he argues, no more solid than that and can be rewritten overnight if required. ‘The current decree authorized the sale of two T25 varieties, which are not subject to the 2008 French safeguard clause. They do, however, require an authorization for the use of companion herbicide glufosinate ammonium. David is concerned that while this toxic product is not allowed on maize crops yet, its current availability on the market for other uses (e.g. crop dessication) gives it rather more than a foot in the door. ‘Maize accounts for the bulk of crop irrigation in France. The wisdom of soaking a crop with water soluble toxins of any description has to be questioned, especially on light and porous soils. ‘As France drifts back to work after the long summer break, someone may think to challenge the administrative fait accompli. Whether or not the genie can be put back into the bottle, though, is another matter.’
THE OXFORD SYMPOSIUM
The next Symposium is 8–10 July, 2011 at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. The subject is ‘Celebration’, celebrating as they are their thirtieth anniversary. Registration and information are achieved and obtained from the website, www.oxfordsymposium.org.uk.
Jane’s daughter Caroline is working on an obituary of her mother and I hope that we will be able to run this in the next issue.
I print below the draft of a round-up review I submitted to The Guardian in December 2010 but the 1,000 words allotted me was insufficient to mention all the books I had gathered for consideration. So, after my submission, I have appended notes on other titles that I have been looking at. David Thompson, Thai Street Food (Conran Octopus, £40.00) René Redzepi, Noma. Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (Phaidon, £35) F. Marian McNeill, The Scots Kitchen, its Traditions and Recipes (Birlinn, £20) Jamie Oliver, Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (Penguin, £26) Nigel Slater, Tender. Volume II, A Cook’s Guide to the Fruit Garden (4th Estate, £30) Stephanie Alexander, Kitchen Garden Companion (Quadrille, £30) Skye Gingell, How I Cook (Quadrille, £25) Josceline Dimbleby, Orchards in the Oasis (Quadrille, £25). Mark Hix, Hix Oyster and Chop House (Quadrille, £25) Stephen Markwick and Fiona Beckett, A Well-Run Kitchen (Culinaria, £12) ‘No subject area excites designers and their cohorts to a higher state of ecstasy than cookery: full-page photographs on every spread, coloured type, textured paper, tricksy formats, and rubbish legibility leaves them trembling at their desks, but hinders the involvement of the reader with the writer. In the good old days, that’s what books were about: engagement, not presentation. The art of the author has been subverted. Which bright spark at Conran Octopus determined that David Thompson’s Thai Street Food (£40.00) would be so large that it would never fit a bookcase? That, when open, would cover most of the kitchen table on which you are meant to be pounding, chopping and blending? Who said you need poster-size photos of Thai street scenes to spark your imagination? How about a few well-chosen words? The book itself is first-class. Few people will cook much of what Thompson describes: the materials are hard to come by, the techniques are often not domestic, but the value of his record of a sub-culture (which, counter-intuitively, is of very recent origin) is great. ‘Meanwhile Phaidon have done their worst with René Redzepi’s Noma. Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (£35). Undeniably handsome, it offers a stay-at-home glimpse of the intellectual underpinnings of this year’s world’s best restaurant. Chef Redzepi’s exploration of the true meaning of local food and sympathetic, seasonal construction of dishes will send many readers off to their markets, hedgerows and gardens, but don’t expect to get much culinary help from him. Once you’re through the introductory matter (not to be missed), there are a hundred full-page photographs (without captions) of bits and bobs, mood-enhancers, and finished dishes that give gastro-porn a bad name. After that, the recipes. Some you might try (just), others might inspire, others will have you searching shelves for sea lettuce, Cladonia lichen, Grise Bonne pears, birch wood chips or wild chervil. Still more will leave you looking for the Thermomix, the Pacojet and sundry other gadgets. A present for the man who likes a project. ‘These irritations are assuaged by the stand-out book of the season, for its virtues of no photographs, white paper and seemly typography. F. Marian McNeill’s The Scots Kitchen, its Traditions and Recipes (Birlinn, £20) is a classic from 1929, introduced and edited by the Scottish writer Catherine Brown. A hundred ways with a neep may excite a few and depress many, but McNeill’s use of quotation and description to portray a nation’s foodways is artful and delightful. The recipes, as used to be the way, are generally laconic and require a cook to use the brain. ‘That organ is not in overdrive when following Jamie Oliver’s instructions in Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (Penguin, £26). It promises a revolutionary approach, but seems merely to suggest trolling the supermarket shelves to buy as much as possible half-prepared, pre-washed and processed. This should have been a promotional booklet from one of the big four, whose tyranny over us is close to Orwellian. ‘Not many books this season concentrate on a particular subject beyond the personality of their author. Thai streets and Danish restaurants apart, there are few reports from culinary frontiers (except curry) or explorations of specific foodstuffs. Two exceptions are garden-centred. Nigel Slater’s Tender. Volume II, A Cook’s Guide to the Fruit Garden (4th Estate, £30) carries on where his first volume covered vegetables. His recipes are really very good, and as this is fruit and nuts, there is welcome respite from the constant Mediterranean/Oriental tendency of most modern work. Then there is Stephanie Alexander from Australia’s Kitchen Garden Companion (Quadrille, £30) which does both fruit and veg., has growing instructions and comments in similar vein to Slater (but not so artistic), followed up by a heap of recipes (which are not so simple). Alexander’s previous Cook’s Companion has a very high status in our house for its scope and imaginative take on a thousand ingredients (she will always have something useful to say) so I am sure this will be used with pleasure. For ease and directness, however, Slater has the edge. ‘Cookbooks often work to two paradigms. One is the dedicated enthusiast, willing to shop, search, source, chop, sniff, wait, work and dream until the masterwork emerges to boundless admiration. The other, the slightly put-upon whose task is to produce sustenance each day, every day, week in, week out. The two may mingle in many combinations, but this year the second has been well served by inventive collections of creative yet practical dishes from the likes of Sarah Raven, Rose Prince and Diana Henry. In this vein, the chef Skye Gingell has written How I Cook (Quadrille, £25). The recipes are disarmingly simple, but extremely appetizing. And her practical advice is sound. A good book for the beginner with aspirations, dealing in clean and upfront flavours. Another general collection, this time of greater range and complexity, is Josceline Dimbleby’s Orchards in the Oasis (Quadrille, £25). This is just great. She has welded a memoir to a cookery book and it works. Her tone, thank the Lord, is unpresuming, but her life has been full of thrills, from an ambassadorial childhood in Syria and Peru, to motherhood in South Devon and travels hither and yon. She is an inveterate hoarder, so her scrapbooks have been raided for illustrations which, for once, are a delight. Long practice ensures that her recipes are sound. ‘I would like to rumble longer about soup books that have hopeless recipes for stock; pig books with no instructions for making bacon, sausages or hams; the decontexualization of Elizabeth David into a ‘best of…’ with full-page photography when you can buy the real thing unmediated from Grub Street; or the author who writes inanely, ‘I don’t really feel a kitchen is mine until I’ve cooked a chicken there’; but I’ll close with cheerful endorsement of Mark Hix’s Hix Oyster and Chop House (Quadrille, £25) which has bold and muscular recipes that will feed the inner man and, finally, Stephen Markwick and Fiona Beckett’s A Well-Run Kitchen (Culinaria, £12). At this point, I should declare a professional interest, we used to work together. Markwick has fed Bristol for upwards of twenty years, most recently at his restaurant Culinaria, from where you can buy this book (www.culinariabristol.co.uk). The cooking comes out of Elizabeth David via George Perry-Smith and Joyce Molyneux. Everyone can cook them, and they result in much admiration and much happiness. You can’t ask for more.’ The Great British Book of Baking, recipes by Linda Collister (Michael Joseph, £20). This is the book of the television series but the programme-makers have deputed the excellent, and very sound, Linda Collister to provide clear and helpful recipes of everything baked. On the aesthetic front, it is a serious error, but the recipes are indeed good. Carol Wilson and Christopher Trotter, The Whole Hog (Pavillion, £25). It is quite good to see a whole British book devoted to the pig, and there is quite a lot of general information about the various types of sausage, bacon, ham and so on. The recipes, too, range fairly widely from Burma to Spain to Germany, Brazil and Britain. But the book is strangely deracinated because there’s little exploration of British pork culture. There are no instructions on making sausages or any form of curing, be it bacon or ham. There’s just a quick tour of the supermarket shelves. There is a very slight exploration of paté, terrine and pork pie, and more space is given to exotic pork stews from overseas. Maybe this is a mirror of our culture, but I feel an opportunity has been missed. Stevie Parle, Real Food from Near and Far (Quadrille, £14.99). Alice Hart, Alice’s Cook Book (Quadrille, £14.99). Full marks to Quadrille (which has apparently taken over big time as the largest trade cookery publisher, certainly the greatest number of titles this season), for this pair of books which initiate their ‘New Voices in Food’ series. It is difficult to gain an audience if you are a novice, and not on television. Stevie Parle is chef at The Dock Kitchen in Portobello and a leader in the pop-up restaurant movement – deeply trendy. Alice Hart, is another pop-up queen, apparently a neuro-scientist as well as the youngest ever food-editor of Waitrose Food Illustrated. I would advise you not to read her acknowledgements which are excruciating. Her recipes are of our time and no worse for that. Stevie Parle’s recipes are a bit more exotic and show a long familiarity with points east of India. I was surprised to see that he was bottling without sterilization (I always thought this a direct route to botulism) and I was intrigued to find his constant reiteration of the advice to get rid of the ‘nasty green sprout’ in your garlic clove. Why were all his garlic cloves sprouting? He goes on and on about it. But I did find his book quite invigorating. Harold McGee, Keys to Good Cooking (Hodder & Stoughton, £25). In order to solve my botulism query, I referred to McGee’s new book. He confirms it. And, what’s m