The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.55
WINTER2017

A Number of Inconsistencies

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in the critical

A great divide: Mannered Northern ‘lads’ of culinary accomplishment and mundane musical meanderings.
If you cannot judge a book by its cover, and sometimes you can, you cannot always judge the quality of a cookbook by the quality of its prose, although you should by rights be entitled to do so. Sometimes bad prose accompanies bad recipes in the manner of Elizabeth David, but in her case not even that has prevented an ongoing outpour of adulation by word of mouth and critical acclaim.

A study in conflict and contradiction: Mark Bittman.
With luck our prose has improved, and we also might have added that the oversight is all the more remarkable because in historical terms British books on cooking dominated the American market until well within the twentieth century. Perhaps Bittman has no historical perspective or knowledge. In 2015, Mimi Sheraton lobbed a bomb at what she considers his self importance.

Damp squib: “Nigel Slater’s chicken with butterbeans and rosemary.”
Sometimes a recipe explodes from the page into the kitchen with so much force that the dish becomes a constant. Then there are recipes so unsuccessful that they climb the Wall of Shame. Either way, britishfoodinamerica attempts to mete praise and approbation in objective measure. A third category of recipes, however, requires recognition.

The Cook Book.
In any other iteration, calling a collection of recipes The Cook Book would be a gesture of empty arrogance akin to the insistence of San Franciscans to label their town ‘The City.’ The perpetrator of this title, Tom Parker Bowles, does not lack for confidence, misplaced as his confidence in the past has been. His scholarship has been dubious; he has, for example, dismissed the culinary craft of Rupert Croft-Cooke, a considerable offence.

Sea urchins from the stomachs of pigs, exploding chickens and lost food refound; the wide and wild British world of Dorothy Hartley featuring foraging.
Food in England appeared in 1954, an unlikely year for the emergence of so significant a study. Rationing remained in place for fifteen years--it would be the final one--and for that and other reasons the popularity and reputation of British food had reached a nadir. Dorothy Hartley would have none of that. Her doggedness was prophetic, for her opus has remained in perpetual print.

An anomalous name: Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book.
The Vegetable Book is not, however, an effort limited to vegetation alone. Vegetables of all kinds inhabit the recipes but so does just about anything otherwise edible, and a lot of the dishes are designed for service with birds, fish or meat.

the critical archive

No.54, Fall 2017
A Number of Cook Books, featuring The Cook Book
No.53, Summer 2017
A Number of Bars & Beers, Some of Them Irish
No.52, Spring 2017
Another Northern Number, in Which We Return to Tourtière, and featuring Insular Foodways
No.51, Winter 2016
A Number of Revivals & Reinventions,
featuring Oxtail and Treacle
No.50, Fall 2016
A Number of Eccentrics & Eccentricities featuring Hybrids
No.49, Summer 2016
A Summer Number of Sandwiches and Soup,
featuring Enquiries into Origin
No.48, Spring 2016
A Northern Number
No.47, Winter 2015
A Wintry Number featuring Cambridge
No.46, Fall 2015
Our Fifth Anniversary Number, Featuring Figures Past and Future, and Ketchup
No.45, Summer 2015
A Number of Bloomsbury Fancies -
Culinary, Erotic & Otherwise
No.44, Spring 2015
A Sort of Archeological Number
No.43, Winter 2014
Our First Scottish Number
No.42, Fall 2014
A Number of Savory Pies for Fall
No.41, Summer 2014
Our First Foray Toward the Foodways of India
No.40, Spring 2014
An Eighteenth Century Interlude
No.39, Winter 2013
A Winter Number featuring
More Curious Cuisine and Holiday Cheer
No.38, Fall 2013
A Meandering Fall Number, With Curious Questions and, Perhaps, Curious Cuisine
No.37, Summer 2013
An Eclectic Summer Number featuring a Forgotten Champion and More Musings on Madeira
No.36, Spring 2013
Our First Quarterly Number, featuring
a Vanished Ireland and Worcestershire
No.35, Feb 2013
A Wintry Number of Soups & Stews
No.34, Mid-Winter 2012
Our Third Holiday Number
No.33, Nov 2012
Our Second Preservation Number
No.32, Oct 2012
The Philadelphia Story
No.31, Sep 2012
Sandwiches, Salads and Spitalfields
No.30, Jul/Aug 2012
Oystermania and A Riverine Expedition
No.29, Jun 2012
The Oyster Number
No.28, May 2012
Another Spring Number Featuring
the Poetry of Ronald Johnson
No.27, Apr 2012
A Chicago Number Featuring Pies
No.26, Mar 2012
Our First Irish Number
No.25, Feb 2012
A Preservation Number
No.24, Mid-Winter 2011
A Number of Classics for the Holidays
No.23, Nov 2011
Our Second Thanksgiving Number
No.22, Oct 2011
A Dairy Number
No.21, Sep 2011
O! Canada - A Number Devoted to
North Atlantic Foodways
No.20, Jul/Aug 2011
Another Caribbean Number, featuring Jamaica
No.19, Jun 2011
A First Caribbean Number, featuring Barbados
No.18, May 2011
Our First Nautical Number
No.17, Apr 2011
The Hardship, War & Austerity Number, Part 2
No.16, Mar 2011
The Hardship, War & Austerity Number, Part 1
No.15, Feb 2011
The Food of the People
No.14, Jan 2011
Our Customary January Supplement
No.13, Dec 2010
Our Inaugural Holiday Number
No.12, Nov 2010
The Thanksgiving Number
No.11, Oct 2010
A First All Hallows Number
No.10, Sep 2010
A VictoEdwardian Number
No.9, Jul/Aug 2010
The Midsummer Number
No.8, Jun 2010
Britain and the American South
No.7, May 2010
A Second Seasonal Number
No.6, Apr 2010
A Seasonal Number
No.5, Mar 2010
The Bristolian Number
No.4, Feb 2010
The Elizabeth David Number
No.3, Mid-Winter 2009
The Killjoy Number
No.2, Nov 2009
The Charcuterie Number
No.1, Oct 2009
The Launch Number