The Pedant in the Kitchen

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I read Julian Barnes's The Pedant in the Kitchen yesterday (it was pretty short at 136 small pages), and it was a fun read. The book is a collection of pieces he wrote for The Guardian about his culinary adventures as a home cook. The reason it is so funny is that everything he says is true. For example, he opens one essay with this question and answer:
How many cookbooks do you have?
(a) Not enough
(b) Just the right number
(c) Too many?
If you answered (b) you are disqualified for lying or compacency or not being interested in food or (scariest of all) having worked out everything perfectly. You score points for (a) and also for (c), but to score maximum points you need to have answered (a) and (c) in equal measure . (a) because there is alwasy something new to be learned, someone coming along to make it all clearer, eeasier, more foolproof, more authentic; (c) because of the regular mistakes made when applying (a).
(For the record, my mother actually has too many cookbooks, it is possible.) Many other passages had me laughing in self-recognition. This one is definitely worth a read for anyone who really likes to cook.

Ed Note: Sorry, Mom! Mom wrote to say she actually doesn't have enough cookbooks. As she points out, "Most of the time I may seem to have too many, but there are times when not enough (for example, if I want to cook bison, squirrel or bear or host a thai or japanese food gala)." Fair enough.



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