GWEN­DOLYN SMITH

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS -

Egg & Sol­diers: A Child­hood Mem­oir Damien Trench, as told to Miles Jupp Head­line £18.99 ★★★★★

Damien Trench is the fusspot cook­ery writer cre­ated by co­me­dian Miles Jupp for the BBC Ra­dio 4 series In And Out Of The Kitchen.

In this spoof culi­nary mem­oir, Trench at­tempts to doc­u­ment the for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences that made him the food whizz he is to­day.

I say at­tempts – the nar­ra­tive is re­peat­edly de­railed by lengthy foot­notes on such Trenchian pre­oc­cu­pa­tions as cake pre­sen­ta­tion in art gallery cafes. (‘A slice of cake served on a chilled plate is not a good thing, and up­sets me al­most as much as the de­struc­tion of his­toric build­ings by Is­lamic State.’)

Still, we man­age to learn that Trench was born in north-west Lon­don at some point in the Seven­ties, al­though his trade­mark neu­ro­sis means he can’t give a more spe­cific date than that, lest he be­comes the vic­tim of iden­tity fraud. Early days were spent in ‘Tiny Steps’ nurs­ery, where he was cap­ti­vated by a wooden kitchen set. He meets his child­hood neme­sis Miss Proc­tor at prep school. She’s a key fig­ure in a swim­ming trip in­ci­dent that leads him to seek ther­apy in later life. Adolescence sees his first visit to a Na­tional Trust prop­erty, fraught walks with a bor­rowed Nor­folk ter­rier and an eye-open­ing French ex­change trip. He sur­vives a spell at an all-boys gram­mar school, even­tu­ally bag­ging a place at Ox­ford. The book tails off with him telling his par­ents he’s ditch­ing univer­sity for cater­ing col­lege, an abrupt end­ing his ed­i­tor sus­pects is a bid to pre­serve ma­te­rial for vol­ume two. Such in­sights are of­fered via notes in the mar­gins (the book is couched as a proof copy sent to Trench to check), which largely in­volve our cook pooh­poohing the poor ed­i­tor’s in­vari­ably sage ad­vice. Also punc­tu­at­ing the main text are Trench’s fa­mously con­fus­ing recipes. Fea­tur­ing daft in­gre­di­ents such as a ‘1 thim­ble­ful of salt’, they’re the comic high­lights of the book, deftly satiris­ing how overe­lab­o­rate food writ­ing can be. Whether you’re al­ready a fan of Jupp’s bum­bling bon viveur, or are stum­bling across him for the first time, here’s a book to savour.

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