Review: Polpo by Russell Norman

Eggs On The Roof Reviews

Polpo by Rus­sell Nor­man

Pho­to­graphed by Jenny Zar­ins

Pub­lished by Blooms­bury, July 2012

Price £25.00

Polpo’s food, in its res­taur­ants and in this book, is so stripped back as to be almost inde­cent. Eat at Polpo and you will be served Vene­tian-style cichèti, or small snacks and plates of food, with simple china, no lin­en and very little cut­lery. Even the lux­ury that Lon­don­ers have come to expect of being able to book a table, has been sliced away in Rus­sell Norman’s mania for sim­pli­city. Polpo’s first cook­ery book includes all the clas­sic recipes that smit­ten cus­tom­ers love and expect: Anchovy & Chick­pea Crostini; Fritto Misto; Pan­zan­ella.

Pan­zan­ella pho­to­graphed by Jenny Zar­ins

Amongst the hun­dreds of cook­ery books in my col­lec­tion, just about every style, cat­egory, meth­od and region of food is covered. Or that’s what I thought. But with the arrival of Polpo, I real­ised that I’d been lack­ing some­thing… a post­mod­ern cook­ery book.

If you’ve been read­ing Eggs On The Roof for a while, you’ll know I have a weak­ness for the post­mod­ern. Post­mod­ern­ism plus food would, you’d think, be an abso­lute win­ner as far as I’m con­cerned. And you’d be right. But how does Polpo show off its post­mod­ern status? The answer is, on its spine. Rus­sell Nor­man has taken his pas­sion for reduc­tion to new post­mod­ern heights and stripped away the book’s out­er spine too, to reveal its decon­struc­ted, stitched and glued interi­or.

Show-off post­mod­ern­ism for its own sake is tedi­ous. It wrecks its ori­gin­al inten­tions and becomes merely tedi­ous pos­tur­ing. But this is where Nor­man and his pub­lish­ers have been so clev­er. The sub­vers­ive act of strip­ping away the book’s spine makes this the very first cook­ery book I’ve ever owned that sits entirely flat on the table when it’s opened. And that makes it a joy to use.

Pho­to­graph­er: Jenny Zar­ins

The recipes are as spare and simple as the ideo­logy behind them. Typ­ic­ally, as a former Eng­lish teach­er, Rus­sell Nor­man turns to lit­er­at­ure to encap­su­late that eth­os. “We have a rule that a dish is ready to be put on the menu only when we have taken out as many ingredi­ents as pos­sible. As Ant­oine de Saint-Exupéry said: ‘Per­fec­tion is achieved not when there is noth­ing to add, but when there is noth­ing left to take away.’”

I rev­elled in recipes with only three or four ingredi­ents, in com­bin­a­tions that require no cook­ing, in fresh ingredi­ents that seem to have gone on a blind date, intro­duced them­selves to each oth­er on the plate and found per­fect har­mony. This is simple cook­ing at its best: Grissini, Pickled Radic­chio & Salami; Rock­et & Wal­nut Pesto Crostini; Pizz­etta Bianca; Pros­ciutto & But­ter­nut Squash With Ricotta Sal­ata.

Broad Bean, Mint & Ricotta Bruschette pho­to­graphed by Jenny Zar­ins

Warm Octopus Salad pho­to­graphed by Jenny Zar­ins

So is this book, are these recipes, too simple to mer­it all the fuss? Abso­lutely not. To bor­row anoth­er phrase from Ant­oine de Saint-Exupéry, as the fox tells Le Petit Prince, ‘It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so import­ant.’ It’s the time that Rus­sell Nor­man and head chef Tom Oldroyd have devoted to their pas­sion for remov­ing things that makes the remov­ing of those things so import­ant.

If You are inter­ested in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the when to do so. So the next mat­ter is where can you find info that is reli­able. You can get such info fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pop­u­lar medi­cine is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly each adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men include lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good sound­ness, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied doc­tor imme­di­ately for a com­plete med­ic­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.

16 thoughts on “Review: Polpo by Russell Norman

  1. I like the idea of the stripped down recipes that Polpo uses but omit­ting the spine of the book might shorten its life, des­pite enabling it to stay flat when open. Per­haps mod­ern glues don’t crack like the old ones. Time and usage will tell. From the sound of it usage will be heavy.

    • Thanks Jakey and yes, you’re right that this book will be heav­ily used. It’s full of deli­cious but effort­less recipes.

  2. As you are prob­ably aware, I am a fan of Gior­gio Loc­a­telli. He espouses tak­ing things out (rather than put­ting a lot of things in) — this way you have to use the best ingredi­ents. This is anoth­er book to put on your shelf with love. The last one you recom­men­ded like this is Jake Tilson’s fish book — an abso­lute pleas­ure to own. You won’t be sur­prised when I say that Polpo has just been put on my wish list. Lovely review.

      • I’m an abso­lute fan of Jake Tilson. It’s funny, I got intro­duced to his work, not by a food­ie, by my typo­graphy tutor at cent­ral st mar­tins where I do graph­ic design. I love the way he exper­i­ments, and you can just feel the soul of the book and his travels. If polpo is any­thing like that, I def­in­itely need to start flip­ping through a copy.

        • Have you seen Jake’s small book called 3 Found Fonts? If you love typo­graphy, which I do, you will adore it. You’ll find Polpo fas­cin­at­ing too and of course its Vene­tian roots tie in per­fectly with Jake’s latest book which includes a sec­tion on Venice.

  3. Sounds like an utterly won­der­ful cook­book. I love the res­taur­ants and can ima­gine the recipes are very true to those — one to add to the ever grow­ing list!

    • Thanks so much for com­ment­ing — always a pleas­ure to hear from you. It’s fas­cin­at­ing how dif­fer­ent the char­ac­ter of one cook­ery book is from anoth­er. I’m pretty con­fid­ent you will love this one.

  4. Hey, I got enticed by all your Superb recipes and here you get anoth­er feath­er in your hat ! I cant wait to try my hands on it. It is look­ing so good with all the lovely pic­tures and write up as well. I have been here after a while but enjoyed scrolling through your oth­er won­der­ful posts as well. Have a won­der­ful week ahead, Enjoy. Thanks for shar­ing your recipes. Best Regards, Sonia !!!

  5. Lovely to read your review, Charlie. It’s a beau­ti­ful book and whilst we didn’t pub­lish it we are now part of the fam­ily that did! It is a joy in so many ways, but the spare design is some­thing that has been so intel­li­gently and aptly applied.

  6. Anoth­er won­der­ful review that makes me want to own this cook­book! The very very best meals I have ever eaten were spare — dishes cooked with the few­est ingredi­ents but of the highest freshest qual­ity and put togeth­er per­fectly, so this book sings to me. What a beau­ti­ful book.

    • I love the idea of a cook­ery book singing to you, Jam­ie. I’m pretty sure you would love this book.

  7. Once again I’m wooed by your reviews — too often I get bored half way through a review but you bring them to life. Love the blind-date image of the ingredi­ents set­tling down to a bliss­ful part­ner­ship.

    • I’m thrilled if you think so, Kit — thank you so much. I always love read­ing com­ments from read­ers, espe­cially new ones.

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