Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
Tapas Rather Than a Full Meal
on 20 September 2011
Everyone has their own taste when it comes to food and the same goes for books about food and cookery.
I would never consider eating octopus, sushi or glazed duck, for example, or reading celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver or Heston Blumenthal, for example, but many people do.
I hate so say this but even though I am a Scotsman, I have always been a bit queasy when faced with haggis although I did my patriotic duty and wired in with the backing of a dram or two.
However, I have always been interested in reading about other people's opinions about food.
About 40 years ago I had a Penguin edition of a recipe book by Len Deighton. I thought his spy novels were terrible but loved this book.
I have a tattered copy of Elizabeth David's "French Provincial Cooking" which I bought over 20 years ago and have read a thousand times. I am not sure she knew French cuisine as much as she claimed and she comes over as a latter-day Lady Bracknell but it's still enjoyable to read (as are the memoirs of the American Elizabeth David, Julia Child).
Now, to the main course. This book is not bad but it is not that good either. It's a so-so meal you are not going to complain about but you're not going to rave about it either.
The author has lived in Spain for a couple of decades, has established roots and knows the language unlike someone like Peter Mayle who has made his reputation writing clichéd rubbish about France and the French.
Richardson takes us around the country and presents the different kinds of cuisine and give us some historical background along with a few personal anecdotes.
Unfortunately, that is not enough and he tends to plough the same old path.
He goes somewhere - Galicia, Catalonia, Asturias - and visits the market, has lunch at a famous restaurant, talks to the chef and has a marvelous meal. He drops Christian names as though he is a friend of the people he meets and then sets off to the next place.
There are lots of banal comments, folksy quotes, too much detail - the different kinds of beans in one region, for example - and no-one he spoke to will ever be offended. A little more criticism and honesty would have been welcome.
Some parts are good, e.g. the chapter on olive oil, but overall this is a book to be nibbled at rather than eaten in one go - tapas rather than a full meal.