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Friday, 20 May 2011

Review: Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers

  George Orwell would approve of 'Supper Club' by the proponent of the concept Kerstin Rodgers. In his defence of British food he wrote:

'It will be seen that we have no cause to be ashamed of our cookery, so far as originality goes or so far as the ingredients go. And yet it must be admitted that there is a serious snag from the foreign visitor’s point of view. This is, that you practically don’t find good English cooking outside a private house. If you want, say, a good, rich slice of Yorkshire pudding you are more likely to get it in the poorest English home than in a restaurant, which is where the visitor necessarily eats most of his meals.'

  The supper club is a thing of such exquisite simplicity it can be summed up as just 'home cooking by ordinary people you don't necessarily know'. You go to someone's house and they cook for you. You pay them money and leave. There is nothing to suggest it need be fancy or extravagant, but it can be both and more. You could go to one hosted by Pierre Koffmann or Nuno Mendes (and pay a pretty penny), or in theory, have spag bol and garlic bread round a council flat.

 'Supper Club' the book is more than just an explanation of the concept, its history and its practitioners. It is a glimpse into the brain of a pescatarian, anti-global punk anarchist called @msmarmitelover. Her sensibility is halfway between the child left alone with a jar of marmite, vanilla ice cream and pitta breads, and the single mother with an aga, a teenager and bills to pay. Take for example this recipe for butterscotch schnapps:

1. Open the bottle of vodka and put your Dime bar slices into the bottle. Seal the top tightly with gaffer tape and place the bottle in the top drawer of your dishwasher. Turn on the dishwasher, without powder, for a couple of short cycles. When all the Dime bar slices have melted, your butterscotch schnapps is ready.

The day when Gary Rhodes or big sweary write a recipe involving Dime bars and dishwashers is the day satan complains to the hell district council. About not gritting the icy roads.

 Rodgers' personality is enormous and it soaks every page. She has this immense desire to inform and educate, as well as trying random flights of fancy . A midnight menu is seven courses and two cocktails of black (black sesame, black salt, coffee, marmite, you get the idea). Yet, with the exception of chocolate marmite cupcakes it all sounds like it should work. In fact there are so many 'I have to try that' dishes you could be tempted to spend all your sundays messing about with edamame beans and baba ganoush. 

  I defy anyone to read this book and not be charmed and amazed. It reminds me of this infamous piece of punk history:-

   But one never knows. Maybe it is a marmite thing. Maybe the recipes are too random or internationalist- and there is a lot of marmite. Many are indeed hard to source for and flower ice bowls are little Martha Stewart for my liking. It can also be a little full-on-mental and exhaustively informative (do we really need a recipe for Kir Royale?) But even if you care not one iota for the punk credo or the idea of going to someone's house and have them cook a wonderful meal while meeting random, interesting people; this is a beautiful advertisement for food itself. And frankly, if you see it in Waitrose it beats every Dahl/Ramsay/Martin/Rhodes ghost-written-meals-in-minutes doorstop into a cocked hat. With a flower in it.

  You can buy 'Supper Club' from www.marmitelover.blogspot.com or via Amazon like I did. Which I wouldn't recommend although it is half price. Or I did see it in Waitrose the other week.


  1. I LOVE this review. You get it. Thanks so much.

  2. Sounds very interesting, going to check it out now :)