I picked up a paperback copy of this book from the River Cottage open day a couple of months back. We queued for a good long while to get my wife’s big new Hugh cookery book signed, but I didn’t trouble him with my less significant purchase. I later discovered that it was signed inside the front cover anyway. Obviously he was taking no chances!

I also discovered that it wasn’t quite what I thought it was. Not for the first time, I had failed to notice that this is a collection of previous scribblings by the floppy haired foodie, from various Sunday supplements and trendy lifestyle magazines. Jeremy Clarkson pulled the same trick on me a couple of years back. Thing is, they don’t go out of their way to make it clear just what you’re buying, choosing the words on the cover oh so cleverly, to be accurate but not quite clue you in if you didn’t already know. I find this ironic since a lot of the book consists of Hugh pouring forth with righteous indignation about all the commercial dishonesty out there in the food business.

The first chapter is actually a bit wearing as Hugh lays it on extremely thick, making and re-making the same simple points over and over again about McDonalds and their ilk. It got a bit tiresome and I very nearly gave up entirely. However I persevered and it got better from there on, though the whole volume is still preachy and sometimes patronising. That said, yesterday I bought Waitrose’ organic cheddar even though it was 10p per kilo more expensive that the normal stuff,  which is no doubt made out of cigarette butts and arsenic, with old AA membership cards ground up and added for colour. Actually I bet it’s exactly the same bar the packaging. So Hugh’s taught me two things there: to search out decent ingredients with good provenance; and to maintain an unhealthy level of cynicism and suspicion at all times.

Overall it’s a good book that I’d recommend for anyone that likes Hugh to start with and just likes good food writing. The best bits of the book are the gastronomic exotica that the cover promises and Hugh’s excellent style, full of wit and anecdote and very giving of himself. He does go on about brains a lot though.

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