on 28 February 2002
A long overdue book.
We buy cookbooks because of young nymph TV chefs, and to commemorate and exhibit having eaten at 'last' or 'next' new trendy dining gaff. We sometimes surprise ourselves -- and cook from them. Then, we never shut up about them. You know the way it works: such-and-such food critic recommends restaurant; TV company shows interest.; ghost writer brought in to assist with book project... and then we go and buy one million Jamie- or Nigella-branded products, because we've been suckered into thinking we've got space on our kitchen shelves and £20 to blow. Kitchen credibility demands we have these books and the Joneses have one and they make such good Xmas presents....
The saddest thing then, is that Real Pub Food could well be snubbed by every bookshop across the land; it could be hidden behind the dumpbins of Delia's 7th volume of How To Suck Eggs; or it could reside on the sites of virtual bookstores the world over, its pretty cover and earnest blurb largely ignored -- never to be found, ordered nor delivered. And if that were to be the case, it would be a great shame. For this is a book that marks one of the most significant culinary shifts of recent times. One that is packed with the most sumptuous recipes -- varying from the prosaic to the fanciful -- from some of the country's most underrated, yet most talented chefs. Some chefs that have given up their trade in the kitchens and minimalist decor of big-city restaurants, others that have developed or inherited fantastic food reputations amongst loyal and local pubbing communities. Pub food is not what it used to be. There are more restuarants serving bad food today than there are pubs. This book is welcome, not least because of the great recipes, but because it also introduces us to thirty or so of these mould-breaking institutions. It may finally dispatch the spectre of scampi and black forest gateau that food-lovers have, quite wrongly, assumed to have been haunting pub blackboard specials for the last few years.
Times have changed. Real pub food is an exciting and tasty reality: buy this book.