Anything written by a woman who wears mini Battenberg cakes in her hair is going to be worth reading. I admit that I was drawn in by the cover of this book and found it a good read, although Battenbergs are not mentioned in it.
Subtitled What We Eat When Nobody’s Looking, the book is based on Grace Dent’s podcast in which she invites celebrities to share their comfort foods. There is some celebrity content included (not that I knew who most of them were) but it’s mostly Grace’s memoir, particularly of her youth in North-West England and specifically the foods associated with her family. Generally these were the cheap, processed foods beloved of 70s and 80s working-class households. It might seem surprising that a restaurant critic who is presumably accustomed to gourmet meals and fine ingredients has a fondness for the opposite, but it is certain comfort foods which help her to feel closer to loved ones who have passed away and to bring back memories of happier and simpler times. I can only think of one food – chips – which could be termed a comfort food and that I still enjoy. However, I don’t think this would qualify for Grace’s show as I don’t put anything on the chips, let alone pair them with bizarre ingredients. The idea is that your comfort food is something you’d be a bit embarrassed for other people to know about. There are chapters devoted to butter, cheese, pasta and bread, which for me as a vegan who is also mostly gluten-free, I couldn’t relate to, but that didn’t stop me finding the writing interesting.
In summary, a recommended read. Published by Guardian Faber in 2023.