“It might be a bloody cheek. But so what? It goes on all the time. Chefs travel the world looking for dishes and try to imitate them in their own menus. That’s how good cooking spreads – it’s what food is all about. Frankly, in my view, it doesn’t matter”
I read this quote recently whilst reflecting on the plethora of media and literature that inhabits the Foodisphere. ( Spell check alert – have just invented a new word)
As food lovers we live our lives surrounded by cookbooks, TV programmes, specialist magazines, web sites and of course, blogs. We have never had such a huge resource available to us. My cookbook collection stands at around 500 books, and is still growing, and I couldn’t even begin to estimate the number of food web sites and blogs that I follow.
The thing is, I have slowly come to realise that there is an increasing degree of cross over in material. My husband (no cook I might add) glibly comments that there can only be a certain number of permutations of say, cooking a prawn. I tend to agree. Many writers offer an new aspect or presentation on an old classic, which is refreshing and often inspirational. New ideas on a standard are always welcome. Frankly, some of the material is a re -hash of old ideas, very often from established food writers who are much lesser known, except to an appreciative few.
I do find however, that the food magazines are the most guilty when it comes to this – As I am magazine starved, (French foodie mags are really good by the way)my husband brings me the offerings available in Stansted Airport on a Friday afternoon. It saddens me to see that there seems to be an almost zealous desire to create dishes from foods that are “in season” – the net result being all too often that magazines print (almost) identical content, give or take the odd prawn. ( Sorry if that sounds a bit flippant). It may sound a little negative to say this, but if I buy three magazines, I get the distinct feeling that they almost merge into one from an ideas perspective – not the best of deals when you consider the price.
My most recent tack in this thorny subject is as follows:
I visit the UK quite frequently and have taken to the delightful task of buying second hand cookbooks from charity shops and the like. I additionally frequent the “bargain” book-sellers and they have some first class deals – my most recent coup was a meat cookery book by the iconic Frances Bissell – it was modestly priced at £3 and I duly bought three copies – one for myself, and one each for my mother and daughter. In short, I feel that I am getting far more “content” and absolutely no advertising which seems to invade every page these days – a necessary evil I know, but it overwhelms good content all too often.
Post Christmas sale shopping additionally netted in writers such as Gino D’Acampo, Aldo Zilli, plus the cookbook from the “Great British Menu” series on the BBC.
Rich pickings for magazine prices.
So, perhaps Mr Ronay had this topic sewn up – food is presented in an ever increasing number of variations, but at the very heart, it is, after all, only food.