Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book review: Cravat-a-licious

Many Australians have recently discovered food writer Matt Preston through his role on Masterchef and suddenly Matt and his cravats are everywhere.

But veteran Epicure readers such as myself have known and loved Matt and his witty restaurant reviews and food articles for nearly a decade.

It would be easy to dismiss this collection of articles (billed as "selected works") as a quick publishing response to cash in on Masterchef's fame. But the writing in Cravat-a-licious easily stands on its own merits. Preston's incisive and witty columns feature in Epicure, delicious magazine and Vogue Entertaining & Travel, among others.

The book is divided into five parts: Eat, Cook, Revere, Travel and MasterChef. The Eat section ranges from humorous essays on "25 things you should never do in the kitchen" to more thoughtful articles on migrant food and refugee catering (both of these essays contributed to Preston winning the World's Best Food Journalist in 2008 at the Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards).

In Cook, we follow Preston on his searches for the perfect tomato sauce, perfect risotto, perfect ice-cream and perfect home-cooked slice. All interesting forays through the history of the dish, and recipes are included.

Revere features profiles of well-known chefs, including Margaret Fulton and Skye Gyngell, while Travel looks at different world cuisines. A few essays on the MasterChef phenomenon wrap up the book.

The best thing about this collection is that the articles haven't dated. Even those that are nearly a decade old still sparkle with freshness and vigour. I've read most of these articles before (the articles and recipes on slices, biscuits, ice-cream and risotto still reside in my bulging recipe files) but I enjoyed re-reading them again. "How to win a ribbon" (a 2001 article about how to win a ribbon in the cookery sections at country shows) and "Preserving knowledge" (on how to make jam, published in 2007, and then followed up again earlier this year) are my favourites from this collection, perhaps because they tackle subjects close to my heart (keeping the art of home baking alive).

Preston writes as you imagine he would speak and his unabashed love of food and life shine through his writing. Experienced cooks and foodies will enjoy Preston's masterful knowledge and excellent writing, while novices will find plenty to help broaden their own knowledge. Highly recommended.


Louise said...

Thanks for the review, I think this one can go on my Christmas wish list- sounds like my perfect summer read.

penny aka jeroxie said...

I find this book quite hilarious. I am liking it so far but it seems many food bloggers are questioning the reason why I bought this book and turning their noses up? Any reason why you think this is so?

Melinda said...

Hi Louise - I think this book would make a perfect summer read, as you can easily dip in and out of it.

Hi Penny - I haven't seen much negative debate about this book, so not sure why people would turn their noses up, but perhaps they think it's a cash-in on the MasterChef phenomenon. As I said in the review, long-time Epicure readers know that Matt has been around for a long time and this book shows just what a good food writer he is.