Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: The Pedant In The Kitchen by Julian Barnes

On the jacket:

The Pedant's ambition is simple. He wants to cook tasty, nutritious food; he wants not to poison his friends; and he wants to expand, slowly and with pleasure, his culinary repertoire. A stern critic of himself and others, he knows he is never going to invent his own recipes (although he might, in a burst of enthusiasm, increase the quantity of a favourite ingredient). Rather, he is a recipe-bound follower of the instructions of others. It is in his interrogations of these recipes, and of those who create them, that the Pedant's true pedantry emerges. How big, exactly, is a 'lump'? Is a 'slug' larger than a 'gout'? When does a 'drizzle' become a downpour? And what is the difference between slicing and chopping? This book is a witty and practical account of Julian Barnes' search for gastronomic precision. It is a quest that leaves him seduced by Jane Grigson, infuriated by Nigel Slater, and reassured by Mrs Beeton's Victorian virtues. The Pedant in the Kitchen is perfect comfort for anyone who has ever been defeated by a cookbook and is something that none of Julian Barnes' legion of admirers will want to miss.


Books on food and cooking seem to be the latest trend. I say so, as this is the second such book I am reviewing in 10 days and lucky me, both proved to be exceptional. I picked this book out of sheer inquisitiveness. I mean, Julian Barnes writing about food? Whoa! Barnes is a very high level literary figure and while I have only read him once before (and loved!), this was a new genre for him.

A collection of short essays, in The Pedant In The Kitchen has spoken about why most cookbooks don't work for us, primarily because we try to follow the recipe as a rule book. Pedant: someone who pays a lot of attention to guidelines and details. He sympathises with the likes of us, who are not very good in the kitchen, but would love to cook good food for their friends and family. But recipe books confuse us; (eg) if a recipe says, a spoonful of sugar, what do we make of it - level or heaped?

Hillarious, insightful, sympathetic and logical, The Pedant In The Kitchen goes in my list of favourite books; the kinds which I refer to people to read. So, why don't you try as well!

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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