Brit newspaper The Observer has built an enviable reputation for its food coverage in its Observer Food Monthly, loved amongst Slow Food fans in the UK and around the world too. Now, it’s eagerly awaited listing of the 50 top food books of all time is here, and there’s a fair smattering of Slow throughout it.
Topping the list is The French Menu Cookbook, by American food writer Richard Olney in 1970. What makes Olney stand out, and also makes him somewhat of a Slow Food founding father by proxy, is that he was ahead of his time in championing simplicity and seasonality. He died, apparently, just after lunch, after eating his own excellent tomato pilaf and downing a glass of red.
Amongst the top 10 are several cuisines of the world, including English, French, Thai, Italian and Sichuan. The books cross decades too, with the earliest published in 1960.
What’s also great about the books on this list is that many tell stories as well as share recipes. Sometimes these are the stories of the ingredients, or the food heritage, at other times the chefs’ stories. Food in context is surely the best way to engage with it.
I personally love Nigel Slater. I love his openness and the fact that he is gutsy, in both his writing and in his kitchen. He creates dishes that are easy to do at home, keeping his ingredients simple, focusing on quality and food sources. I’m pleased to see his The Kitchen Diaries in the top 10 at number four.
Cookbooks with an overtly Slow feel include The Handmade Loaf by Mitchell Beazley at number 48 and The Independent Cook by Jeremy Round at number 38.
The judges included Raymond Blanc, Bill Buford, Rachel Cooke, Monty Don, Fuchsia Dunlop, Fergus Henderson, Mark Hix, Simon Hopkinson, Atul Kochar, Prue Leith, Thomasina Miers, Tom Parker-Bowles, Jay Rayner, David Thompson and the Observer Food Monthly team.
The real judges though are us, the public, and we’ve not been shy of sharing our opinions on the Top 10 list. The strongest opinions are focused on who’s been left off; Keith Floyd and Madhur Jaffrey fans are not happy!