Eat Well with Sitwell - Food for Thought

William Sitwell praises the cookbooks that change our perspective as well as our palate

By William Sitwell

December 20 2019

When I was the editor of a food magazine, such was the volume of books I received that at the end of every week I had to clear my desk of the latest culinary tomes.

I would open a package, put the book down, then pile the next one on top, and within days a fortress would grow around me. No one who is anyone can call themselves a true foodie unless they have published a cook book with their name on the cover.

Not that that diminishes the flourishing genre one bit, for the arrival of a new cookbook always piques my interest. Sometimes I harrumph. There are the celeb chefs whose books appear more regularly than their restaurants close, and who you know have little to do with their book other than approve the ghostwriters. And there are the famous who seem to get book deals without ever having demonstrated any talent for recipe or food writing. But sometimes there are true gems; the ones I covet and want to grace my shelves. They end up as practical wallpaper, interchangeable interior design. They can decorate and feed. Of course I have food books that I would never cook from, but I like that they’re there. And there’s my own shelf of culinary vanity. Nine translations of a single book of mine. It’s in the downstairs loo, where the shelf can be admired or despised. I don’t care. The key thing is that if a friend of yours publishes a food book, buy it. Long live print! Even if it’s 50 Ways With Sprouts.

Luckily, the books recommended to Emma Hughes on the next page, by five prominent foodies, are much better than that. Meanwhile, Bill Knott warms us with thoughts of proper puddings, and Tom Harrow helps us out with a definitive list of the wines you should avoid at all costs. You’re all set for winter with Boisdale.