Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jelly - With Bompas & Parr

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).

Today seems to be the day though (Mrs Ames will wait a little longer), after my liaison with Nigella I’m in a foody sort of mood. ‘Jelly’ is at the opposite end of the cook book spectrum – it’s full of things I can only imagine making – but oh how I imagine making them. Jewel coloured, wobbly, seductive, exotic perfect jellies flecked with gold, or holding gleaming fruits in their pellucid depths all freshly turned out of their bespoke copper moulds (available from £600) I rather like the ones shaped like breasts. Seems appropriate for jelly.

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.


  1. Do you eat it, or frame it?
    It looks quite a fun book.
    I haven't had jelly for years, and I always preferred to eat the little squares raw. It used to be considered good for you like that, but I guess that raw would be frowned upon these days.
    My philosophy on cooking these days, is definitely 'the quicker and easier, the better'
    and I never buy cookery books, but this one is definitely a talking point and a good one to bring out at parties!

  2. It's as much art as it is food, and it really is fun. If you see a copy have a look! Nothing looks quick though...

  3. Goodness, Hayley, it's something I've never thought about thinking about. Utterly fascinating.

  4. Sherry, apparently the best moulds to start experimenting with are old american aluminum ones... Jelly seems to have quite history, finding it fascinating!

  5. Really? and here I was, picturing one of those lovely old brass moulds, I was really getting excited. Aluminum. hmpf.