It has been said that I will eat anything. This is, of course, nonsense. Medium Density Fibreboard soaked in paraffin served between two discs of foam rubber has never got me salivating (which is why I steer clear of McDonalds).Start of chapter two
Hugh gained the sobriquet of Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All from a review of one of his books where he advocated eating as much of an animal as possible, no discarding of offal, if a pig has been killed to provide the diner with pork chops the least people can do is eat the rest of it with as little waste as can be managed. I am very much in agreement with him and regard most offal as a treat due to the flavours and textures that you would otherwise miss. I haven’t gone as far as Hugh’s keenness for brains and frankly his descriptions of the texture, which for him makes the dish, are quite off-putting to me.
This book, unlike the others I have by Hugh, is a collection of his journalism and whilst some of the articles are campaigning for various issues, especially regarding ‘nose to tail’ eating, others are very funny and even self deprecating. His own personal food business ‘River Cottage‘ barely gets a mention and whilst there are some recipes in the book they appear only rarely and always to illustrate a point in the article they are attached to. This is worth pointing out as most of his books are cookbooks, and one is my favourite which is his Meat book, nothing I have ever cooked from that book has failed to work or indeed been so complicated that I was immediately put off trying it. Having said that the journalism is a delight and being short articles it makes this a great book to dip into pretty well at random. Hugh started out as a sous chef in the kitchen of the famous River Island restaurant in Hammersmith, London but didn’t last long as a need to cut costs led to him being fired about eight months after joining them, he has never looked back, or indeed worked seriously in a professional kitchen since that date in August 1989. He moved to River Cottage in 1997 and presented his first TV series from there two years later and nowadays it is River Cottage rather than his journalism that most people think of, which is a pity because as I said earlier it’s very good.
The book is split into six sections with articles gathered thematically so for example the first part ‘Hard to Swallow’ includes pieces about McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, bemoaning the quality of their products and the Atkins diet pointing out the dangerous side effects of that regime. There are also articles about the poor standard of food in first class on Eurostar and other other similar topics. These sound like they could be hard work to read but rather they are quite entertaining, especially when he tries to replicate a Big Mac at home. Later sections dwell on travelling to try new foods and also his home life from childhood to his current family life at River Cottage, he is a very good writer, short articles are notoriously difficult to do especially if you are also raising an important point such as intensive farming without just banging on about it. No everybody can’t live the way he does and eat fresh home produced vegetables and meat but we can try to do the best we can afford’ Hugh has the advantage of coming from a wealthy family and sometimes he can be somewhat divorced from the realities of how most people live but having said that he comes over as a very likeable person and at some point I will get down to River Cottage to do one of his cookery courses.
One thing I think that is missing is which publication the articles originally appeared in, you get the month and year but not where. He had regular columns in Punch magazine and the Evening Standard and Sunday Times newspapers so I guess most are from those but it seems a strange omission.