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.