The British Larder: A Cookbook For All Seasons
The time has come to unveil this beautiful book to the world!
Holding the final product in my hands, I feel both honoured and humbled to have been given such a wonderful opportunity and I hope you grow to love it as much as I do.
After all this time, I still can’t quite believe that we have finally produced a cookbook and I can still remember my first conversation with Jon Croft, Publisher and Managing Director of Absolute Press (an Imprint of Bloomsbury), as if it were yesterday.
It was 4:30pm on a bright clear May afternoon. I had just finished my staff lunch, when the phone rang. It was Jon. He asked whether I would consider writing a cookbook. When I responded that I had recently declined such an offer because I had felt that the other publisher was not quite right for me, Jon turned on the charm… and the sales pitch.
Well, as they say, the rest is history. Here we are with the book completed and launched in all its 448-page glory. I am very aware that I could not have done this on my own and I am grateful that I was supported by such an amazing group of people on my journey.
Looking back, I realise how incredibly lucky I am to have had Jon and Absolute Press, as my publisher. I couldn’t have chosen a more understanding or perceptive company when it came to interpreting my passion for food and cooking and I’m so proud and fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them.
As the art director, Matt Inwood had the difficult job of taking my words and images and making them fit together. Not an easy task and we had many awkward and tricky conversions. One of my main weaknesses was that I found it extremely difficult cutting down my recipes. As a chef, I can only compare it to the feeling of what it must be like to have to choose between ones children. In the end, I managed the process of limitation by justifying to myself why each recipe featured in this book, deserved its space on the page. In addition, my photography was by no means professional and it was purely due to Matt’s patience and tenacity that the book has ended up coming together so well.
In fact, that reminds me that the images themselves represented a drama of their own, which I’ll share with you. In September 2011, we had an unexpected power surge and my Mac and external hard drive, failed. When I thought that I had lost all 24,000 images, I cried like a baby. At the time, I truly felt that my life was not worth living. It was and probably still is, the most stressful experience I had ever had. I was very close to having a nervous breakdown. We had just signed the contact with Jon and I didn’t know what to do – even the experts at Apple couldn’t retrieve the data. Luckily for me, Tim and Andy from Bruizer, a local film production company and good friends of ours, helped out; they pulled a few strings and talked to the right people. The hard drive made a U-turn at the University of Manchester and after 3 months of agony, Tim was finally the bearer of good news… and all 24,000 images!
We can now all have a laugh about it, but I think the experience certainly aged me. In fact every time I see the image of ‘the Rabbit’, I recall how I felt at the time. It was the one image that was burnt onto my mind; I knew that if we found that image, we would have found them all.
Two other troopers, who played a major role in the writing of this book, are Anne Sheasby and Imogen Fortes. These two ladies had the task of editing every single word I wrote. And I mean EVERY word. I can’t count the number of e-mails we exchanged nor the amount of hours we spent in front of the computer, but when I consider what we have produced and when I read what I have written, I know every second was worth it. I have no regrets! Looking at this book through the eyes of both an author and a chef, I’m happy to say that I would not change a single thing.
And last but not least…the cover, which was designed by Claire Siggery, a very talented graphic designer from Bristol. In fact, it was the one episode in the whole process that I found truly bizarre. I had had no input with the design of the cover and was waiting in anticipation for what it would look like. I think in hindsight, that I was hoping to find some fault with it. But, when it finally arrived, I was gob smacked. I could not fault it at all. That Matt had commissioned a cover such as this, finally demonstrated to me how well Matt had come to understand me as a person and how well he had grasped me as a chef and author. I felt truly grateful and can only thank whoever it was, whether Matt Inwood or Jon Croft, who had the great vision in bringing something as beautiful as this cookbook, to life.
But… this book is not a coffee table book.
It’s a cookbook that has the desire to be used; used as a reference book every day of the week and every week of the month…I hope that in reading my book, you are inspired to buy local, cook seasonal and enjoy eating the fruits of your labour.
Lots of Love