Food as memories is the starting premise for this lockdown recipe book that features contributions from around 100 chefs, food writers, foodies and even a Hollywood movie star. As Jane Hodson writes in her foreword, it is a cookbook focused more on the story of why, rather than on instructions how to cook, to serve as a collective memoir of some of cooking’s leading lights.
From this noble starting point an excellent cookbook has grown. As a recipe book, These Delicious Things more than holds its own thanks to recipes that are as diverse as they are intriguing from chefs who include Ken Hom, Richard Corrigan, Sally Clarke, Hélène Darroze, Anita Cheung, Andi Oliver, and Alastair Little, but as a collection of food vignettes it is even more interesting.
From Tom Parker Bowles’ evocative description of a meal at The Hotel Excelsior during his annual family holiday to Ischia, and Merlin Labron-Johnson’s vivid recollection of a yearly culinary trip to The Duke of York pub in Dartmoor, to Anna Del Conte’s tale of as a child running to the attic window to grab scoopfuls of know with which to make lemon granita, These Delicious Things gives a very personal insight into how food became such an important part of these people’s lives and the episodes that sparked a fire in them to enter the industry.
Recipe books are often (and rightly so) prepossessed with flavour, with technique, with authenticity and tradition; they are a grand gesture to a style of cooking that has shaped a chef’s career and to which they have devoted their life. What makes These Delicious Things so refreshing is that it is a precursor to such things and is a discussion of food at a simpler, more human level. Whether it be Jamie Oliver’s recipe for porridge - simple porridge oats and milk - based on his earlier memory of staying at his nan and grandads or Tom Kerridge’s version of a fish finger butty that features potato waffles by virtue of the fact that he used to cook tea for himself at the age of 14 and that was something he was able to produce, many of its recipes are personal and sometimes imperfect renditions of classic dishes.
If all this wasn’t reason enough to buy a copy, then the book has one more ace up its sleeve in that it supports Magic Breakfast, the charity that helps stop children starting their days hungry.
These Delicious Things
Jane Hodson, Lucas Hollweg, Clerkenwell Boy
Number of pages: 304
Must try dish: Mike Robinson’s wild rabbit korma.
Publisher and price: Pavilion, Harper Collins, £25