For many years, I have leaned toward literature where food is the supporting act. Not cookery books per se; but novels with an underlying thread of the everyday preparation of meals and larder stockers. Books like Zuretha Roos’s The Saffron Pear Tree and Marcel Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past; which I first read as a library books and so loved that I had to buy my own copies, to dip into over and again.
Ever the fool, I lent three of my favourites; Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Annie Hawes Extra Virgin and Ripe For The Picking to an acquaintance, more than a year ago. About three months ago, I made a timid request: could I have them back so that I could do a book review on them for my club. I am still waiting and am too embarrassed to ask again!
The second Annie Hawes book is a particularly beloved one; it gave me a recipe that has become a regular star at our table. Essentially a stand-alone, cold lunch for labourers in the olive groves of Liguria, it comprises equal volumes of roughly chopped potato and parsley (yes; a lot of parsley, but it works) with two large tins of anchovies (the oil is used for dressing) and a grind of pepper. As simple as it is, there is no better accompaniment for roast beef and we enjoy this meal very often, but I have to drown my curses about my missing books with a large glug of Merlot.
Telling this story to a foodie friend on the telephone sometime ago, it seems that I am not alone. Blatant book thievery abounds and complete lack of conscience is not a rare thing at all.
Perhaps I should invite myself over and piddle in someone’s veggie patch?