The Ten (Food) Commandments – Jay Rayner

For bonus points, I actually won this book from Goodreads, having had Flatmate tell me repeatedly that I ought to read and he’d lend me his Kindle if he had to so I would. Nice when the world works out so neatly. It’s an incredibly short read, only 138 pages, so I got through it in an evening, but it was also incredibly worthwhile, and one I’d strongly recommend other people read… but only if you’ve had something to eat first.

Ok, so maybe a slight caveat, I’d recommend you read it if you’re ok with the sort of humorous writing where the author is treating himself as the biggest authority on absolutely everything, and any view that disagrees with him is wrong and possibly a sign of moral inadequacy. It’s incredibly self-aware (and he calls himself a fair few rude names along the way) but I get that that sort of overblown arrogance as a persona is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s very much mine, and I think this is a really really good example of it. But it’s not for everyone, so do consider yourself warned if you are not a fan of someone taking it upon themselves to take something not that serious (himself) incredibly seriously indeed, for comic effect.

Unsurprisingly, given the name, the book lays down ten food-based commandments on crucial issues like dining companions, whether or not to eat the fat and the deliciousness of the pig, with recipes included. The recipes look like actual, cookable food that I want to put in my face… while also being totally unhealthy (ok, those two facts might be linked), but I haven’t tried yet, so I don’t know. As it happens, I’m in a position of rough agreement on nearly everything he says, so it’s a pleasant meander through having my opinions emphatically validated, but I suspect it would have been just as fun had I absolutely disagreed with him on everything. And his are the sort of die-hard opinions where you can’t really “meh” at them. They force you into equivalent polarity. I can imagine finding myself defending things with a passion I don’t actually have, just because he’d dared to criticise them… and that’s really really fun.

Basically, I think the crux of this book is: having strong opinions is fun.

Rayner writes well, managing a conversational style that is very distinctive without being too informal for the format. He punctures his own rhythm with a healthy quantity of parentheses, and they serve as pleasant asides that feel like a change in tone of voice would in conversation. The humour suits his voice, and is delivered with a self-assurance that it will be amusing… and he’s not wrong. I laughed out loud quite a few times while reading.

It may not be for everyone, but it was a book that hit all the right notes for my sense of humour and love of a good rant, and I will freely admit this is the funniest thing I’ve read in ages. And even if you don’t like it, 138 pages is basically nothing.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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