Friday, 27 September 2013

"Floyd on Italy", Keith Floyd

Back in the heady naive and optimistic days of 1995 Floyd on Italy inspired as television. I'd long been fond of him as cook and (dated phrase?) television personality, and "Floyd on Oz" had already done a lot to kick start my enthusiasm for cooking as an undergraduate in the distinctly non-Australian surrounds of Fife.

The combination of the Aston Martin, the Strangler's soundtrack, and Keith Floyd in all his pomp made for compelling viewing, and lusted after the associated book to an almost indecent extent.

Right, that is, until I came across the first "River Cafe Cookbook". Captivated by its polish, displayed so seductively alongside the desirable home furnishing of Habitat's newly opened Dublin store. Prior to leaving for my postgraduate time at Aberystwyth my mother bought me Rose Gray and Ruth Roger's book, commenting sagely when I would gush over Floyd, that I probably had all the Italian cookbook I was likely to need.

Off I went to Aberystwyth, and staples from the River Cafe, such as the classic Penne Cabonara, and what I'm sure they won't thank me for learning became known as 'sausage surprise', became standbys that last to this day. I still loved Floyd, did so for years, and was enormously sad to hear of his passing on that excruciating day for Radio 4, but I figured my mother was right, I didn't need another Italian cookbook.

Skip forward nearly 20 years and in the comfortable surrounds of South London, and seeing Floyd on Italy rerunning on the outer reaches of the Sky package, and suddenly the old urge is back. Floyd has style, he has panache, he has passion; how could he not have a brilliant associated book. Thanks to the miracle of the interweb a copy is duly purchased for a trifling sum, a package appears and...


Floyd on Italy remains brilliant, if now maybe dated, television, but the book does nothing, and I suspect will not become one of those loved cookbooks, food stained and annotated throughout. It will sit dryly on the shelf, occasionally looked at, and before long make its way to the charity shop contribution. Maybe it's time, but I doubt it, because "Floyd on Oz" works, and it's an earlier publication, but for whatever reason the pagination and typography of "Floyd on Italy" doesn't resonate.

In some ways you can never go back, maybe "Floyd on Italy" would have worked for me when I tried to cook to impress in mid Wales in the mid 1990s, but tonight's dinner came from the River Cafe (admittedly Puttanesca from one of the later books). The book will probably go pretty soon, but I'm smiling, because it means that I can still fall back on listening to Waltzinblack and remember Floyd in his television pomp, and what it inspired me to do.

Don't buy this book, track down the series and watch it, and cook great Italian food. It will be worth it.

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