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A dissenting voice...
on 29 August 2010
I love cookbooks, and for the most part I use the ones I buy, to prepare actual - you know - food. And I have admired Heston Blumenthal's recipes since I first came across them in their newspaper versions. But my wife bought a copy of the Fat Duck Cookbook and I was surprised to find myself revolted, both by the physical object - with its indulgent use of white space and its regular foregrounding of the Great Man in photos and cartoons - and by the recipes, with their generally unobtainable ingredients, dependence on high-tech gadgetry, and incredibly complex mise process.
OK, I recognise that many great artists (and I think HB probably is one) like to explore the boundaries of their art; and the record of the Fat Duck restaurant speaks for itself; and no doubt there are some people who will be inspired by this book to go away and create innovative recipes that people can actually cook from materials they can actually find. Setting those points aside, there is still something obscene about the flaunting, preening, hagiographic illustrations, self-adulation and wilful over-complexity of this book. The term "gastro-porn" was surely invented for exactly this kind of joyless drooling.
So I'm going out on a limb here, and everyone who's bought a copy of the book will probably leap on me. But let's have one dissenting voice, shall we? This book is vile.