Good Food For Your Table

Regular readers of this online journal may remember the interview with Ian James, co-founder of Melrose and Morgan, I published last year.

The book “Good Food For Your Table – A Grocer’s Guide” {published by Saltyard Books, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton} was then just an exciting, germinating idea beginning to take shape.

The work is now due to be published and it exceeds all expectations – informative, educational, succinct and useful, it is a very handy guide for all food shoppers and cooks. Everything you ever wanted to know about groceries – but never dared to ask – is contained within its bright and fresh covers.

Business partners Ian James and Nick Selby have recently celebrated ten years as grocers in Primrose Hill and Hampstead – and are now owners of two of London’s most beautiful food shops – really worth a visit if you are ever in their neighbourhood. They specialise in sourcing, curating and selling seasonal, regional, artisan food at its very best – from larder goods to teas and coffees, fruit and vegetables, cakes and biscuits and ready-made traiteur goods.

With an insightful forward by playwright Alan Bennett {who came into the shop to buy his supper during the interview} this sort of book would probably have never been commissioned a few years back, when corner shops, specialist food shops and greengrocer businesses faced terminal decline. Supermarkets were taking over the world, and independent traders were being driven from the high street by rising rents and out-of-town shopping centres.

But now a food revolution is taking place – and Melrose and Morgan {named after the surnames of the authors’ mothers} is at the vanguard of a growing number of small, independent urban farm shops, like Leila’s Shop and General Store.

“Good Food For Your Table” is 457 pages of practical guidance on how to source, store and cook great food, all year around – divided into 19 chapters that describe all the sections of the well-stocked larder.

So, from bread, to cheese, chocolate, coffee, dairy, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables, grains, herbs, meat, nuts and seeds, oils, pasta and noodles, pulses, spices, sugar and syrups, tea and vinegars, you can learn all about the provenance, varieties, artisan techniques, uses and preparation tips behind your favourite ingredients.

There are a few recipes in the book – and anyone who has enjoyed Melrose and Morgan’s offerings at their shops or Selfridges pop-up {made in their Chalk Farm commercial kitchens} will be able to recreate some of their traiteur goods {such as aubergine caviar, spiced chickpea salad with roast peppers, preserved lemons, mocha madeleines, peanut butter biscuits and muscovado meringues} at home.

This is a richly researched book – from the history of chocolate to sustainable fishing, identifying apple varieties, cooking with unusual herbs, buying ethically reared meat, storing oils and sourcing herbal teas, every aspect of the intelligent food shopping basket is considered.

Much copied but never bettered, the graphic design and art direction of Studio Frith afford this book a bright and cheerful red and white identity that makes it a joyful and covetable gift. There are skilful line illustrations by Nina Chakrabarti too. Good Food For Your Table is good for your curiosity, your soul and your wallet – helping you to shop wisely, seasonally and thoughtfully.

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