The Plagiarist in the Kitchen by Jonathan Meades - review by Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart

Serving up a Treat

The Plagiarist in the Kitchen


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Jonathan Meades is the Jonathan Meades of our generation. Okay, it was A A Gill who said that, not me. But I’m going to steal it anyway because it’s a perfect summary of the man, and this is a review of an ‘anti-cookbook’ that positively boasts that it’s full of plagiarism. There is no such thing as original cooking, says Meades. It’s all borrowed or stolen. And that’s the point. 

You can sometimes feel like you need a dictionary by your side when reading Meades, but there is markedly less sesquipedalian logodaedalism here than you might expect. (Though I did have to look up the word ‘treyf’ – Yiddish for non-kosher food, it turns out.) Instead there are some artful recipes combined with enjoyable philosophising about the physiology of taste and what makes good food.

One thing Meades is utterly, gloriously uninterested in is healthy eating and nutritional value. This is not a man who drinks kale and chia seed smoothies, and you suspect that the only word in the English language that he’s never heard of is ‘antioxidant’. He used to be quite a large figure on our TV screens owing to his love of good eating, though he’s slimmed down nowadays. But I can never forget his appearance on one programme, in his trademark black suit and Mafia sunnies, reporting that he had been described as ‘morbidly obese’ by his doctor. He rolled the words around his mouth like a particularly delicious champagne truffle.

And so to the food. Many of his suggestions are brilliant. Dried orange peel in stock, he says: that has to be tried. We usually use our orange peel as handy and aromatic firelighters, but putting it in stock seems an even better idea. He says you should add

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