The Kitchen Magpie by James Steen (Book Review)

Ha, a book review. Something I never thought I’d do, mostly because I don’t read. I’m very good at reading (although not as good as I am at writing), but I don’t have the time due to binge watching basically everything on Netflix.

So I got a press release about James Steen’s new book about food, drink and everything in between; The Kitchen Magpie, and thought it’d be rude not to read the attached sample. I was hooked. I needed more. It was as if the words contained crack.

Y’know, I particularly don’t read books about food because I mostly find them lifeless and lacking personality, as well as a bit poncey but James Steen has got it right. From the opening line of “Please do not eat this book” to the final line of “If you are a pica sufferer, you can now eat this book” the pages are filled with amusing anecdotes and captivating content, as well as contributions from some of the world’s best renowned chefs and industry experts and even a few historical recipes thrown in for good measure.

One of my favourite things about this book – aside from James’ brilliant writing. You know where to send the cheque – are the “Food of Love” contributions from famous chefs, telling you what they think the food of love is. They may surprise you, as most of them are oh so simple.

I enjoyed every second of James’ hilarious yet informative narrative as it gives you a sense of wonder and the desire to learn more – something I’ve not found other books. It discusses meat, vegetables, fish, cakes, eggs, cutlery… and basically anything to do with food, but in manageable bites.

But as much as I like this book, I have one small criticism, what with this being primarily a beer blog. Yup, you guessed it, the lack of beer featured in the book. James talks about wines and spirits, as well as non-alcoholic drinks like tea and coffee, but I don’t recall any mention of beer. It’s a shame, but only a minor niggle to an otherwise outstanding book.

The whole book just makes you think, though, not just about food but about the theory and history behind it. Mostly it got me thinking about what my food of love is, too, and I’m not sure if I’ve found the answer yet. I thought about those hungover mornings where I’d crawl into the city and eat 3 double cheeseburgers, as well as the drunken nights where I’d somehow manage to devour an entire bucket of chicken from KFC. It could also be the Thai Green Curry I never managed to cook for Emily because I fucked it up with too much disgusting fish sauce. Or it could just be waking up in the morning, and cooking poached eggs for us both. Maybe I’ll come back to that later.

Whether you want a slightly bizarre recipe to feed your guests, such as Tregothnan Earl Grey Sorbet, want to read about Hot Dogs, or obscure parts of history such as the Maitre ‘d who gave his life, or just want to know how to make the best sour cocktail, this is the book for you.

And you should certainly follow James Steen on Twitter: @JamesSteen100 



  1. Is the foreword by Mick Robertson and his perm of 70's TV show Magpie?


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