Thursday, 22 September 2011

Book review: or how The Good Table bruised my toe

I was lucky enough to be sent this recipe book - The Good Table, by Valentine Warner - by the publisher, as a competition prize. The only condition was that I might like to write a review of it, here or on Amazon.

And truly, that's been no hardship to do, because overall this is a beautiful book to handle, look through, and read. The photographs of the finished dishes are stunning. The only complication really was that it somehow ended up tucked away under the sofa, at the furthest corner. (I blame the cat.)

I'm physically disabled, and inevitably that affects my perception of everything I do and experence.. The Good Table is a big book (hardback, nearly 12 inches tall,over 7½ inches wide and over an inch thick.). I just dropped it on my toe while I was moving it to go for a drink and it hurt like hell. Seriously.

For those of us with weak arms and hands, that can cause significant problems. It's very difficult for me to lift The Good Table at all! The binding does mean though that the book lies open at the chosen page, even if that's at the start or end of the book. A rare thing, and very useful for a recipe book.

As you can imagine, there are a huge number of recipes spread throughout its 368 pages, ranging in complication level from 'Boiled new potatoes with Stinking Bishop & spring onion' and 'Baked potatoes with garlic & cream' up to...well, I looked through the book for a dish that would be particularly complicated, and couldn't find one.

Certainly there are some that wouldn't be for novice or nervous cooks, but part of the stated aim of the The Good Table is to help restore the cooking skills of the country.The book includes a number of  'how-to' guides: for instance, how to put together a steak & kidney pudding. If less experienced cooks follow these, and move from less to more demanding recipes, Warner hopes that some of our lost cooking skills can be reestablished.

I haven't yet cooked anything from Warner's book: but some of the recipes sound so tempting, that I know I will very soon. How could anyone resist 'Floating islands with espresso caramel sauce'? And it's wonderful to have a recipe for chai.

Looking at the recipes from a disability point of view, things are a little more difficult. Many of the recipes are well within my capabilities, and I look forward to making them. There are however very many that would just be far too tiring: taking too long, or involving too much stirring or lifting, for instance. Others could possibly be risky because of chopping, cooker flames, and so on.

So speaking as a disabled person, I'm delighted to have won The Good Table. Would I pay out £25 for this heavy hardback version, with more than half of the recipes being ones I can't make? Well, no. I don't think I would, to be honest. But if you're able-bodied and you like cooking, or want to learn more about it, go for it. It's brill.

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