The mutilated cover and tatty opening pages say it all, I guess.
The paper burnt, ripped and so fragile that bits flake off when it’s touched. Stains on virtually every page inside. The spine long broken.
Wild Food From Land And Sea – written in the days when Marco Pierre White was better known as the nation’s greatest chef rather than a purveyor of stock cubes – has been in my kitchen for two decades.
Let’s not pretend that I’ve cooked every recipe nor even a majority.
But I’ve followed a large number and, in the days when I was learning properly to cook, it introduced me to techniques, combinations and basic sauces that still excite me.
The jus Sauternes with turbot remains a favourite. Likewise confit of salmon with aubergine and beurre de tomato. And a gorgeous duck, green peppercorn and caramelised apple recipe.
Wild Food most definitely went on the ‘to keep’ pile when I had a massive clear-out of cookery books recently.
So did an almost equally battered copy of Elizabeth David’s influential French Provincial Cooking and a no less damaged copy of Claudia Roden’s fantastic A New Book Of Middle Eastern Food.
Of my newer tomes, the comprehensive and invaluable The Cook’s Book edited by Jill Norman has pride of place.
Though I no longer slavishly follow recipes, these publications continue to provide guidance and inspiration.
Which makes it a pity, I think, that most cookery books that are sold seem destined for the coffee table rather than kitchen work surface.
Sales of celebrity cookbooks soared by 250 per cent last year, but one in ten of us admit to never even opening the ones they buy.
Thus, it appears, people are seduced by the reputed glamour of Nigella Lawson, The Hairy Bikers, Jamie Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry and the rest rather than driven by any passion to cook.
What a shame that fashion and fame now seem to matter more than any desire to learn to cook – and eat – wonderful food.
A pile of my favourite books sit alongside me on the table right now. When I’ve finished wittering on, I’ll pick one up and plan a meal.
That’s what cookbooks are for – not to pay homage to rich and famous TV cooks.