I’ve had this book for a couple of months now, and meant to write about it from the moment it hit my doormat but somehow haven’t which I’m feeling a little bit guilty about. I might have written about it sooner if I could only have decided if it was a work about art, or about food – it is of course both, but the tidy part of my mind wants an overall definition (so I can put it on a shelf).
I’m also more than a little in love with the striped Clementine jellies. These are such a thing of beauty, but I calculate they would take about 9 hours to make. I still want to try them, or perhaps something similar – stripy jelly, really what could be more exciting sat on the table in front of you? I’m an unashamed sucker for a bit of theatre (and okay the camper the better) with my food. Not all the time perhaps, but there are definitely occasions when I want to be amazed and enchanted by what’s on the plate (I had a choux pastry swan at an impressionable age and have been trying to re live the thrill ever since) Bompas and Parr do this on every page – the only problem being that I can’t eat any of it.
I haven’t yet made a jelly, but I’m going to – it’s time for them to exist outside of my imagination, I want to spend a weekend on it and make a few, it looks like it could be compulsive. I should say too that every one of the many people who I’ve shown this book to have had the same reaction. Starting with a patient but resigned look as they prepare to humour me (far too few of my friends share my enthusiasm for cook books, especially the less every day examples), they quickly become more enthused with me going “I know, and look!” It’s very much that kind of book.
It’s also definitely food treated as art, high art that just happens to be edible as well as beautiful, imaginative, and wonderfully wobbly. Bompas and Parr have been responsible for quite a few instillations now (google them and see, or better still get the book), Harry Parr trained as an architect – which makes sense when you see their jellies – there’s certainly a strongly architectural element, from the very obvious use of the building shaped moulds, to a more general aesthetic sense which feels like it owes little to the traditional kitchen. The non foody background brings me back to what I like so much about Nigella as well. Getting nice moulds might be tough but the principles behind the jelly making look simple enough (if time consuming) and are clearly explained – art aside this is a practical book, but the art shouldn’t be put aside and I can’t put it better than this:
“In a world where food is becoming so worthy, it’s time to rediscover the joy that can come from cooking. Jelly is a good a place as any to start enjoying food. So whether you make jellies with foraged fruit or with juice from the supermarket, you’ll still have fun. And fun should, for once, be important.”
Bompas and Parr – not just marketing genius, but jellymongers extraordinaire.