April 16, 2014
From the author of the Costa Best Novel-shortlisted ‘The Elephant Keeper’, Winter is the a…
‘Joanna Blythman has one of the sanest food heads in the Western World – and this brilliant book encapsulates her admirably clear thinking in a wonderfully accessible, entertaining way. Everyone who cares what they eat and how they feed their family – that’s all of us, right? – should read it.’ Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
‘A rare book, practical, sensible, and passionate. Joanna Blythman writes with clarity, sanity and humanity. Anyone interested in food and cooking should read it.’ Matthew Fort
‘A succinct and badly needed encyclopaedia of facts and common sense on food and nutrition for which I am truly grateful. The introduction alone is worth the price of the book.’ Darina Allen
I’m right behind the Meat Crusade, the new campaign to save our high street butchers. They have been haemorrhaging of late, and not because someone’s hand slipped with the cleaver.
There were some 22,000 traditional butchers shops in Britain in the mid-90s but by 2010 there were just over 6,500. A few more will have shut up shop forever by the time you read this.
This culling of skilled butchers is not a natural survival-of-the-fittest phenomenon. The old-style butcher’s shop generally sells much better meat than the supermarket equivalent. Most of the red meat in supermarkets is of mediocre quality and pre-packed in modified atmosphere so it stays ruby red. You’ll struggle to find a properly hung, lovingly aged piece of beef there.
And if you have ever tried to get any sense, or a special cut, or even cooking advice from those people kitted out in white pork pie hats behind the supermarket ‘butcher’s’ counter, you won’t have to be a Sherlock to realise that they have neither the knife skills, training or knowledge one might reasonably expect from any practitioner of this craft.
But for younger generations of queasy Brits who feel faint at any sight of butchering in the raw, the antiseptic supermarket offering, divorced from any thing visceral that says ‘dead animal’, allows them to remain in La-La land about the origins of what’s on their plates.
High street butchers have also lost some ground to farmers’ markets, which appeal to people in search of ethical, local meat from real people. You can find some wonderful meat in farmers’ markets, but health regulations mean that everything has to be pre-packed in plastic, not the best medium for storing meat.
The farmers’ market customer also has to choose from what the stall sells, and that can be a bit of a lottery. A well-stocked butcher’s shop, on the other hand, responds to the customers needs. If, for instance, you want 300 grams of stewing lamb, you get it. In the farmers’ market, you may have to settle for a 250 gram pre-pack, or spend more than you want and buy two.
And while many producers at farmers’ markets and farm shops are great at rearing animals for meat, some aren’t quite so hot on the links in the meat chain that come after, such as the ancient art of cutting meat with the grain. Relatively few primary producers have the wherewithal to mature meat in the time-honoured way. So, however good they are, farmers’ markets stalls most certainly don’t make craft butchers redundant.
I pick up quite a bit of minced meat and chicken at the farmers’ market, but for beef and lamb, it’s off to my favourite high street butcher. He knows where his meat comes from and it is always immaculately butchered and properly hung. I can also rely on him for more economical cuts, such as oxtail, flank mutton, feather blade and shin. If I come in with a recipe that requires a special cut, and maybe some tricky boning, he isn’t fazed and neither are any members of his staff. On that front, there are six permanently employed, properly remunerated butchers, plus a cashier. It’s a small job creation scheme in itself. I doubt that the supermarket across the road is as well staffed, even though it’s ten times the size.
We need to cherish the excellent traditional butchers who have kept going valiantly in the teeth of the supermarket takeover of our food chain. As the Meat Crusade puts it, if one in 10 of us returned to our local butcher that would be make a real difference. And if one in five of us did so, even once a week, it could start a revolution.
First published on Friday 10th February on http://www.joannablythmanwriting.com
The kindle team have picked two 4th Estate books for their February Picks - After the Lockout, the début novel from Darran McCann; and The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson, the story of a failed attempt to travel across the North Pole by hot air balloon.
You can buy them for £6.99 each on Kindle and all e-reading devices.
After the Lockout is one of 4th Estate’s Fiction4theFuture titles and has receieved amazing advanced praise from Hilary Matel, who described it as ‘A wonderful novel about what history has done to Ireland, and what Ireland has done to history. The triumph is that it is not only deeply intelligent and self-aware, but also entertaining from the first page to the last.’
Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, had this to say about The Ice Balloon: “Wilkinson’s writing is so flawless and engaging that I’d read him on a packed subway at rush hour.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize-winning novel is being adapted into a screenplay by Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele, who famously adapted Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ for the London stage.
Screen Daily and IdieWire report that financing for the film is being provided by British producers Andrea Calderwood (“The Last King of Scotland,” “Generation Kill”) and Gail Egan (“Happy-Go-Lucky,” “The Constant Gardener”) alongside Nigerian private funding and The British Film Institute (BFI).
If reports are true then the production has lined up an A-List cast to tell Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Orange Prize-winning story of the Biafran war.
Dominic Cooper is the star of recent hits such as the Oscar-nominated ‘An Education’ in which he starred alongside Carey Mulligan; ‘The Duchess’ in which he played the object of Kiera Knighley’s affections; and most recently ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’.
Thandie Newton is the BAFTA-winning actress famous for her roles in ‘Crash’, ‘Beloved’ and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. She has recently read the audiobook for ‘Go The F*** to Sleep’ by Adam Mansbach for Canongate.
Filming is set to begin in March, so my guess is that we will see this released in late 2013 straight into the ‘Oscar-corridor’ in preparation for awards season in early 2014.
This month, 4th Estate are delighted to announce the publication of four classic books by Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing.
You can now buy The Grass is Singing, The Golden Notebook, The Good Terrorist and Love, Again for £3.99 each.
Also available in e-book by Doris Lessing are Alfred and Emily and The Cleft
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Exciting news! Dan Lepard’s Short And Sweet has been shortlisted in the Food category of the 2011 Andre Simon Food & Drink Book Awards.
The shortlisted books for the 2011 prize in the food category are:
Short and Sweet – Dan Lepard published by Fourth Estate
The shortlisted books for the 2011 prize in the drink category are:
The winner of the award will be announced at an awards ceremony to take place on 15 March at the Goring Hotel in London at 6.30pm.