The Book of St. John
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It's been twenty years since Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating first appeared and became a cult classic. That book was celebration of Henderson's cooking at his London restaurant, St. John. And so is this one. And if anything, it's more confident, more witty, more characteristic, more Fergus, than its predecessor.
Writing here with Trevor Gulliver, his partner in St. John since the beginning and an integral part of the restaurant's wine and beverage program, Henderson's voice is a sheer delight to read. Plainspoken, passionate, self-effacing, and charming—an astonishing combination, as any writer will tell you—he conveys with clarity why he chose to emphasize cooking the way he does. And at the same time, he also makes it all seem practical, satisfying, and witty.
Stock is "the essential lubrication for the kitchen." "A garnish is a tragedy; a single uneaten sprig of parsley, added to impart misguided glamour to a plate, is a sad fate for such a wonderful herb."
There is a brief aside called, "With a cold ham up your sleeve," that is a counterpoint to Irma Rombauer's line, "Eternity is two people and ham." The food itself is smart and happily British: confit of pork shoulder and dandelion; chicken, bacon, and trotter pie; ox tongue, carrots, and caper sauce; whole roasted kid; blackberry pavlova. Throughout the book there are abundant pickles, chutneys, and sauces.
There's a chapter called "Elevenses," for when you're hungry but not quite ready for lunch. And there are menus with recipes for special occasions like weddings and Christmas dinner. This is a chef's book that makes no compromises in the name of being accessible and fully conveys precisely why St. John has been so important and so beloved for so long.
Hardcover. Color photographs through. British measurements.