Most helpful critical review
I enjoyed his rant about the onion dilemma – why do ...
on 29 September 2014
This short collection of essays is a real mixture. There are some hilarious moments which made me laugh and cringe simultaneously as I recognised my own pedantry depicted in cold hard prose, include Barnes' description of the annual cookery book cull (p25-32), or the corresponding inventory of the utensil drawer (p122) complete with giraffe-handled salad servers, deeply unhygienic-looking spatulas, an odd number of chopsticks and multi-pronged serving forks of dubious origin and purpose.
I enjoyed his rant about the onion dilemma – why do chefs consider them to only come in three sizes: small, medium and large? And how does one tell what constitutes a medium onion without first comparing it to all the others in the shop? (p21) And although in theory I am an advocate of supporting local butchers, fishmongers, green grocers etc, I’ve had enough exchanges with scornful specialists who make me feel like a cretin for asking what they deem to be obvious questions to agree that ‘The unlovely success of supermarkets is due to many factors, but eliminating a potentially awkward social exchange is by no means a minimal one.’ (p78)
And my favourite section of all came early on where he describes the imprecision of terminology such as lump, slug, drizzle etc (p19-20)
But for all the brilliance, there were also some rather dull moments, and little in the second half of the book made me smile as much as the first half. I guess Barnes and I just fish from different ponds. For example, I owe none of my culinary heritage (consciously at least) to Jane Grigson, so long and frequent heartfelt references to her work do nothing for me...
Nevertheless; if you are a foodie or a pedant, or both, there is enough in this short book for me to recommend it to you. Enjoy!
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