Norfolk Cook Book 2017: If you want a true flavour of a great county, then here it is
- Credit: Archant
Food writer Andy Newman says it's time to celebrate the best of Norfolk.
Regular readers of this column may not be surprised to learn that I am occasionally accused of being the 'grumpy old man' of food and drink writing. I guess that comes with the territory when you express your views honestly: I once again had to don my tin hat recently when I went on The One Show to suggest that fish and chips is an outdated dish that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
These opinions are not, however, the product of a peevish attitude to food – quite the opposite. If I occasionally come across as irritable, it's solely borne out of a frustration that not everybody shares my view that food and drink are amongst the most important things in life. I am much more of the 'live to eat' persuasion than the 'eat to live', and my ire is directed at those who believe that food is only about fuel, profit or exploitation.
In the past few weeks I have castigated those who claim they can't afford to eat healthily but who somehow find the money to gorge on junk food; repeatedly bemoaned bad service in restaurants; had a go at dodgy nutritional advice based on bogus science; and criticised the amount of perfectly good food that we as a nation simply throw away.
That said, I spend just as much time celebrating everything that is good about eating and drinking, and in particular championing the wonderful food and drink which is produced in our county.
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So it was a delight to be invited earlier this week to the launch of a publication which is a true celebration of Norfolk's food and drink. The Norfolk Cook Book features 50 of the county's best producers, restaurants and food champions, telling their stories, and sharing recipes which make the best of the county's produce.
As you would expect, many of the county's leading food businesses are represented in the book. But it is also good to see the City College Hotel School in there, as well as social enterprises such as Thornage Hall.
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It is published by a company called Meze Publishing, which has created similar books around the country. Such is the richness and diversity of what our county has to offer (and the passion and enthusiasm of those who produce it all) that the Norfolk edition is one of the biggest the company has yet produced in the UK.
At the launch, held in The Forum, the bland canapés which usually grace these kind of occasions were nowhere to be seen; instead, many of those who have taken part in the cook book brought along dishes for us to try, giving us a reminder of the edible riches we can enjoy right here on our dorrstep. Unsurprisingly, there was not the usual rush for the door when the speeches had finished; people were too busy eating.
The pride shown by each of those serving dishes was palpable. They showed real joy when they saw people tucking in with gusto (and all credit to the team from Biddy's Tearoom, who had the grace to look genuinely pleased when I went back for thirds of their delicious lemon, tea and biscuit cheesecake). This is about real passion, a sincere desire to share the joy of eating and drinking.
So you see, when there is cause for celebration, I am quite happy to shed my grumpy old man persona and join in. But don't get too comfortable, because in my next column I am planning to debunk the trendy and rather ridiculous phenomenon of 'clean eating' – so you may be sure that my inner grumpiness won't remain hidden for long.