Originally posted on 09 Dec 2023

1 minute read

In the past I’ve really enjoyed Kurlansky’s books Salt and Cod, so when I spotted his latest food book on the library’s New Releases shelf I was excited to take it home and get started. And it’s about onions! I love onions. This is gonna be great.

Except it wasn’t, which came as rather a shock. I expected history skilfully woven through a coherent narrative that helped to support and contextualise the facts. What I received was not that.

The first half of the book is the “history” part. It’s a rapid-fire onslaught of facts, largely lacking the important and expected narrative. It’s also poorly edited. For example, there was one paragraph that had the same sentence twice, and it wasn’t for emphasis.

The second half of the book is the “recipes” part. It feels more like a list of research reference notes held together by a few slapped together paragraphs. I’m quite familiar with historical recipes and could probably use most of these successfully, but people who pick up the book enticed by that “100 recipes” in the subtitle are going to be pretty disappointed. These recipes are not accessible for most modern cooks.

Overall this book was such a huge let down. The best I can say for it is that it’s short. It really felt like he was under contract to produce a book so he tossed this one off just to put the obligation behind him. It did his reputation no favours in my estimation.