Skip to Content

Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition: Decide what Leigh Hunt’s Jenny did next (plus oblique cooking with Yoko Ono)

5 July 2014

9:33 AM

5 July 2014

9:33 AM

As if there weren’t enough recipe books in the world, the latest assignment challenged competitors to invent a title for yet another one, with a fresh angle, and supply a publisher’s blurb.

A quick trawl of the web reveals that there is already stiff competition out there. The Star Wars Cookbook (may the sauce be with you) and Cooking in the Nude both caught my eye, and those of you who suggested a roadkill-based approach have been beaten to it by Buck Peterson, who published The Original Road Kill Cookbook in the mid-Eighties (yours, on Amazon, for under a fiver).

Commendations go to D.A. Prince, Tracy Davidson, Sylvia Fairley and Nicholas Stone, who get applause if not cash. The winners, printed below, pocket £30 each. Adrian Fry takes £35.

Adrian Fry
‘Television freed cuisine from the tyranny of the palate,’ writes chef Preston Emmental in his Foreword to Conceptualist Cooking, ‘replacing it with the tyranny of the eye. I devise feasts for the mind.’ Abandoning the constraints of traditional kitchencraft for the stratagems of the modern artist, Emmental here presents, among much else, a necessarily abridged recipe for Everything Pie, an irresistibly enticing yet inedible Dadaist Razorblade Stew, a Not Kedgeree owing more to Duchamp than to haddock or rice and a dish produced using oblique instructions from Yoko Ono, the ingredients of which include one smile, 11 cumulonimbus clouds and a grapefruit. As the book progresses, Emmental outlines his theories; dinner guests are a bourgeois irrelevance, situationism a valid defence for kitchen tantrums and the apartheid against serving non-food items is definitively confounded by quicksilver soup with iron filing croutons. Ground-breaking to the end, the book will leave you ravenous.

Bill Greenwell
Skippity Doodah and Other Treats
Waste not, want not, that’s what our folks said. But Deya Dove-Knight sees things differently: as she says, it’s really Waste, want not that should be our refrain. And here’s DDK’s recipe for recipes, using food she’s found — and that you too can find — in bins, on tips, outside restaurants, and, as in her delightful signature dish that gives this collection its title, skips. DDK is the Banksy of the culinary world, sneaking in and out with ingredients, and stirring them in all kinds of surprising combinations. In here, you’ll find ways of combining cake and bacon, softened broccoli and fudge brownie, beer and Skittles — exotic blends you’ve never dreamed of, some to prepare sushi-style, some to boil with canal water, all to enjoy for free. Any who’s read Deya’s Put Urge in Regurging is going to froth at the mouth when they try these specials!

Sarah Drury
The Doubtful Guest
Anyone conversant with the works of Edward Gorey will immediately understand the purpose of this cookery book: to deter unwanted guests from lingering. Insensitive interlopers who find it impossible or inconvenient to move on are well documented in history and fiction. How to deal with them effectively has never been so imaginatively propounded: Attack through the Stomach! A succession of unappetising and dreary meals are presented that will surely send even the most limpet-like visitors on their way. Recipes range from coley pudding with cauliflower sauce to jugged brains, steamed tripe and pink shape. Drawing inspiration from memories of wartime British cooking, food substitutes are suggested to make eating a chore rather than a pleasure: dried egg and milk, margarine, synthetic chocolate, ersatz coffee. A final chapter gives advice on the subtle art of over and undercooking, and how to prolong the smell of boiled cabbage.

Oliver Bennett
Imagine a world where olive oil can only be found in chemists, and ‘babbaganoush’ is reclaimed as a Scottish figure of speech. That’s the world we want, and what most people in the country want, too. So in your hands is a book — nay, a ‘tome’ — that will empower you to take back Britain’s food heritage, lost to the multi-culti hell that Nu Libore and the ConDems have bequeathed us. Here, in the pages of The UKIP Cookbook, you’ll find some of the most gloriously British dishes, from bollock-shaped mash to lumpy swede; pork chops to tough bully beef. Inside, we show you how to boil cabbage properly, and arrange a tomato, a beetroot slice and a lettuce leaf so that it may be called ‘salad’. There are tips on how to making the perfect gristle, and ten creative ways with TREX. If you grew up in the 1950s eating in provincial hotels, The UKIP Cookbook is for you.

Chris O’Carroll
Had We but World Enough and Thyme is the perfect cookery volume for the poet in your life who believes that eating should be an art. This book combats obesity and promotes healthy food choices by establishing creative hurdles and milestones for the literary dieter. No chocolate until you’ve composed a quatrain in praise of some fruit or vegetable. Want another bite of chocolate? One more quatrain, please. Hungry for some pie, maybe key lime or pecan? That’ll cost you at least a sonnet.

The book feeds the literary appetite with passages of fine food and drink writing, culinary anecdotes from the lives of great writers, even tasty trivia. How many recipes for Proust’s madeleines do you imagine there are? Did you know that a young Edna St Vincent Millay was nearly persuaded to jump naked out of a cake at a party in honour of Rudyard Kipling?

‘Jenny kissed me when we met’ is the first line of a well-known poem by Leigh Hunt. Your next challenge is to substitute another word or words (‘fainted’ or ‘hit me’, for example) for ‘kissed me’ and continue, for up to 16 lines, to produce a new ‘Jenny’ poem. Please email entries (wherever possible) to by midday on 16 July.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments


The Spectator Comment Policy

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.