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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Cooking With Cookbooks

‘On the programme this evening we have Wok Cruet who has come to talk about his new TV cookery show, Cooking with Cookbooks. Welcome, Wok.’

‘Thanks for inviting me.’

‘Since the pioneering writing of Mrs Beeton, cookery books have been considered an essential household reference, but recently a huge problem has emerged, hasn’t it?’

‘That’s right. Surveys have shown that impulse purchases of such books, with their glossy photographs of tempting recipes, has meant that the average British household has gained a new one approximately monthly since 1975.’

‘I believe this is having huge social implications?’

‘There’s a national accommodation crisis looming as homes become increasingly full of cookery book. Some families have lost the use of several rooms.’

‘And I gather that these frightening statistics are set to rise as forty percent of titles stocked in UK bookshops are by celebrity chefs.’

‘Indeed. Until recently it had been possible for households to quietly dispose of surplus recipe books into their dustbins. The revelation that these now constitute fifty percent of all landfill, however, has driven local authorities to refuse to collect or process this kind of waste.’

‘Why do people keep buying them?’

‘It’s hard to know. Research has indicated that no one except Delia Smith had actually cooked anything from a written recipe since 1982. It seems to be an incurable national addiction.’

‘And this is where your new show comes in?’

‘The aim of the programme is to solve the cookbook problem and the lack of home cooking in one go by showing people how to prepare, cook and eat cookery books.’

‘I gather there were some biological issues to overcome?’

‘Yes. The paper from which the books are made is primarily constructed of cellulose which is not well digested by humans. It can, however, provide a valuable source of dietary fibre.’

‘Doesn’t it taste rather bland?’

‘Eaten raw, yes, but soaking in flavoured sugar solutions or marinading in savoury sauces can make pages both easy to swallow and also impart a delicious flavour.’

‘So, what recipes will you be showing us?’

‘Well, I’ve now totally ceased to use traditional pasta, favouring the hugely more flexible material from redundant cookbooks. Pages can be used in sheets for lasagne, cut into strips for tagliatelle, rolled into tubes for cannelloni or cut to form any other traditional Italian variety. Very finely chopped pages can, of course, be used to thicken stews or help jams to be less runny.’

‘I gather some pages can even enhance presentation?’

‘That’s right. You can incorporate photographs from the books into your cooking by, for example, using a cheese impregnated photograph of a lasagne as the top layer of that dish, or by using a sugar soaked image of royal icing to cover a fruit cake. Inks dissolving from the pictures will add colour to any dish.’

‘And there’s a new book to accompany the series?’

‘It includes all the recipes, and the pages are made of rice paper to allow it to be more easily used for future culinary creations.’

‘Thank you for joining us, Wok. We’ll all look forward to the first programme of ‘Cooking with Cookbooks’, this Thursday at 7.30 pm.’

‘My pleasure.’