Always do as you please, and send everybody to Hell, and take the consequences. Damned good rule of life. N
This was the advice given to Elizabeth David by her good friend and mentor, the writer Norman Douglas. Certainly taking on the stodge of British culinary traditions after the war was a bold endeavour. Particularly under rationing. But she was a woman driven by her passion for flavours and ingredients – the discoveries she made during the time she spent in Italy, Egypt and Crete – and also by the rage she felt at the outrages of hotel food and pompous restaurants in her native country.
She was extraordinary and radical. And it’s thanks to her bloody-mindedness that she wrote the books and articles that changed so much of what and how we eat today. The seasonal artisan produce that enthusiasts are able to source so readily across this country is proof enough that we are no longer prepared to accept food we have no faith in.
This all occurred to me last week, when I was being given a tour of the ageing rooms and warehouse of Neal’s Yard Dairy. Another example of bloody-minded courage. Back in the 1970s when we were mostly limited to a few varieties of Cheddar and Stilton, Randolph Hodgson started on an epic journey which has brought the huge range of artisan British cheeses to international standing.
I suppose it’s exactly this bloody-minded approach to life that has persuaded me to set up a pop-up restaurant in Islington in September. For three weeks I will immerse myself in a frenzy of produce and ingredients from my favourite farms and boats and markets, feeding forty people a night at a friend’s pub, The Marquess Tavern in Canonbury.
And if I come out of that in one piece, then there’s a book to be published. Cooking without Recipes hits the shelves in October. Let’s hope I won’t be sending myself or anyone else to Hell. But it’s still a damned good rule of life.
If you find yourself at Neal’s Yard Dairy, ask to try ewe’s milk Spenwood from Ann Wigmore. Innes Log goat and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire.
And for something different, I’ll be serving these and other Neal’s Yard cheeses at PipsDish with Apple Sorbet and bacon fat toasted oatcakes. If you want an idea of what I cook, you can check through some of the dishes on this blog.
To book a table at PipsDish, contact me directly or go to the Marquess Tavern website. I’m running 3 Cooking without Recipes lunches (Fridays 16, 23, 30 £15), where we’ll work together preparing the menu and we’ll eat while I talk about the ideas in the book.Articles, Eating