For those of you who celebrate these kinds of things: Hope you’re having a jolly Christmas. By the magic of the inter-Web, I’m probably cooking my hind quarters off right now to give my family a fantastic holiday meal. I decided upon a Spanish-influence theme this year (last year was French). I’ll bring you the results a bit later in the week.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a book I recently read. And, how you should avoid it. My dad, may the Lord bless and keep him always, is forever on the lookout for culinary books I might enjoy. He has supplied me with a number of crazy cookbooks (some of which I have shared with you here… but trust me, there are plenty more). So, when he found The Pedant in the Kitchen, by Julian Barnes at the local library book sale, he snapped it up and delivered it to me post haste.
If you are of a literary bent, you might recognize the name. Julian Barnes won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending. (If you are not of a literary mind, the Man Booker prize is given yearly to an English-language writer from the Commonwealth or Ireland. It’s a pretty big deal for those cats across the pond.)
Before he was all Man Bookerish, Barnes wrote some novels and essays and was generally very smart and clever. (Actually, his third novel was nominated for a Man Booker… so he’s been Man Bookerish for a while now.) He then had a column in the Guardian about being… you guessed it… a pedant in the kitchen. (Stop. I’ll save you the trouble. A pedant is someone who is excessively concerned with displays of learning or one who overemphasizes rules and details. I think we all know someone like this. Feel free to call him or her a pedant now.)
The book is a collection of those columns strung together. He spends a great deal of time going over how unfortunately written most recipes are and why he can’t seem to make any sense of them. There are a lot of columns that deal with tricky things like how difficult it is to know what size onion to use in any given recipe. See? Smart man = fool in kitchen! HAHAHAH so funny.
While you can appreciate the great writing and (sometimes) subtle wit, it makes for a tedious book. Especially if you are an American who fails to grasp some of the references. (I must admit, I had to look up Jane Grigson. But, I suppose now I am better for that information.)
Anyway, if you received other works by Barnes this holiday, I say wonderful! Have yourself a Man Booker Christmas. If you received The Pedant in the Kitchen, I say return it and buy yourself a nice sweater instead.