It's December, it's Advent. Here in London, it's suddenly cold. With the run up to Christmas, I'm going to be concentrating on Christmas food, but we're going to kick off with a look the dreaded Christmas cookery book market.
Come mid-November, the bookshops are suddenly awash with Christmas themed cookery books. I had a quick look at the best-selling lists on amazon.co.uk: Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities is currently in the lead at number one, with that old chestnut, Delia Smith's Christmas coming up fast from behind at number three. I've got mixed feeling about both of those two. Delia's recipes are often good (I detect the influence of Simon Hopkinson), but there is just something too perfectionist and goody-goody (butter's a sin!) about her style. Nigella's the opposite: she-er- looks fab (a saliva inducing mid-life fantasy) but I'm disturbed by all the late night 'fridge raiding "finger in the taramasalata" stuff going on- and I hate to say it, I'm not sure that her rather mucky recipes are up to the ticket, either.
No, for me, the Christmas book of choice has to be Paul Levy's The Feast of Christmas. This is one of my all-time favourite food books, if not my favourite book of all time. Paul Levy is a highly literate food critic, and writes beautifully. The Feast of Christmas was originally a publisher's tie-in for a television series shown some time ago on good old Channel Four (back in those halcyon days when it was producing stimulating and intelligent television programmes). Paul Levy looks at the mythology and history behind Christmas, and includes Christmas recipes from food writers such as Claudia Roden, Ken Hom, Frances Bissell and M.F.K. Fisher. It's The Greasy Spoon's Book of the Month.
Elizabeth David's Christmas is another good 'un. Published after her death, and edited by Jill Norman, Elizabeth David's Christmas includes 150 Christmas recipes from her private papers. These include Marcel Boulestin's Turkey, Roast Capon with tomatoes and rice and walnut stuffing, Fish Consommé, and Lemon and Celery Sauce.