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01 December 2008

Learning from cookbooks?

The Economist offshoot Intelligent Life has an interesting take on the vitality or not of French food.  A story told through the recipes of The Complete Robuchon and Fernand Point's republished Ma Gastronomie.

I've been giving a lot of thought to the role of the cookbook recently, what will all the hoo-ha around Ferran Adrià's latest last week and my childish excitement and subsequent love affair with The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.  

I'm still mulling my thoughts over, but as the Intelligent Life article indicates, they are more than about food, they are historical documents written from one very particular angle.  I know this isn't the most profound insight, but taken to its logical conclusions there are some interesting outcomes.  For example, I wonder whether in twenty years time, the likes of me will be more excited by Jamie Oliver's works or Heston Blumenthal's. 

In many ways I owe Jamie more than I owe Heston.  True, Heston was responsible for my best meal to date, but it was only because of the influence of Jamie's first book that really got me thinking about food technically.  I would guess I'm not the only one to be so influenced, although some may choose to keep quiet about it.

But which is more important and which will have more longevity?  I assume Heston, given that Jamie cooks in the vernacular, unlike Heston, Fernand, Adrià and Robuchon.  But maybe Jamie is more important because his influence is greater even if he hasn't done anything to progress the culinary canon.  He may have entrenched it, but others have introduced innovation and moved things on.  It's a though I want to return to.

Whilst I'm on the subject of important books, for those not twittered-up, I spotted that Thomas Keller's latest, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide is currently on sale at a 60% discount on Amazon.co.uk


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I also had the best meal of my life at the Fat Duck, what a fantastic experience! I think the non-foodies with relatively little cooking imagination owe jamie a lot as he has really brought "real" italian food to the masses, however Heston raises the bar to the level of Ferran, which in my opinion makes them pioneers and benchmark-makers of the industry and hence all professional chefs and hard-core foodies owe them more...

Thanks, Party Caterer London, I agree with you to an extent. In so far as we owe the likes of Heston and Ferran for their innovation and the inevitable benefits that will have as their knowledge trickles down.

However, in terms of raising the game generally - at the base - then I suppose Jamie is to thank for that. This is I appreciate a very UK-centric way of looking at the world. From a global point of view, you're definitely right.

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