Book Review: “The Ten (Food) Commandments” by Jay Rayner

by Jan

The 10 Food Commandments

This is an amusing little book. Rayner pulls no punches and can’t stand bullshit.

To promote the book, he did a tour of stage shows in Britain, dressed as Moses holding pizza boxes (instead of stones) with ‘Do as I say’ written on them.

As the food columnist for The Observer he has a bit of clout, and his opinions are likely to be accepted. They are not just an opportunity to dish up his acerbic wit, and he did some research.

His Ten Commandments are:

  • Thou shalt eat with thy hands:

Who said you couldn’t? And what’s wrong with them? Many dishes are meant to be eaten by hand.

  • Thou shalt always worship leftovers:

It’s extravagant and wasteful not to eat leftovers. Especially as there are people who cannot afford much, or who know how to cook it. No excuse really!

  • Thou shalt covet thy neighbour’s oxen:

Here’s what Rayner actually says: The point is that wanting what your neighbour has can never be a vice where food is concerned. It is a virtue. It is what spurs us to action. We are meant to roll our eyes at those who sit in restaurants photographing their dinner before slapping those images all over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

  • Thou shalt cook – sometimes:

See point 2 above; again, no excuses!

  • Thou shalt not cut off the fat:

I suggest if there is an excessive amount of fat on meat, then cut a bit off. Not all of it because it provides moisture to what could turn out to be a dry piece of meat.

  • Thou shalt choose thy dining companions bloody carefully:

They should not be people: who spend ages reading the menu; who are very conservative, nervous and picky; who don’t like food so order a hamburger because that’s all they understand; who are suspicious of what the cooks are trying to do to them; who are disappointed about good honest traditional dishes because they don’t really understand different cuisines, but have watched food programs on TV so have over-developed expectations.

  • Thou shalt not sneer at meat-free cookery

Many traditional peasant-based cuisines, such as Lebanese, Italian or Spanish, consume meat-free dishes. Too much meat is unhealthy and can be costly.

  • Thou shalt celebrate the stinky:

Blue cheese is wonderful. And fish sauce makes every Thai dish more palatable. Fullstop.

  • Thou shalt not mistake food for pharmaceuticals:

Why would you swallow a pill when you can eat something delicious and healthy? Doesn’t make sense to Rayner.

  • Honour thy pig:

Cooked properly, pork is beautiful meat; it is traditionally used in many cuisines, and you can eat everything but the squeal. Besides which, bacon is beautiful.

This little book is a delight to read; I suggest you get hold of a copy.