The anthropology of food is fascinating – how food is central to our lives from sustenance to celebrations and how what we eat reflects our times and tastes – and this fascination is clearly illustrated in Martin Stott's more than just a cookbook. Through the medium of food and recipes he gives an insight into the history and diversity of life on the Cowley Road.
Central to any cookbook are the recipes and this book covers a wide-range of dishes from the medieval staple of Pottage, through classics such as Oxford sausages and marmalade (with a simple recipe for marmalade-glazed sausages), to the multi-cultural diversity of the food available on Cowley Road more recently such as curried goat. The recipes on the whole are simple and straightforward to follow and of course many of the dishes and their ingredients are easily available on the Cowley Road. Each recipe is accompanied by detailed, well written and researched background material and here the author's knowledge and passion for his subject shines through.
Ultimately, as the truism goes “we are what we eat" and this book clearly illustrates the influence of food and the cultural diversity of the Cowley Road on the wider city and its people. Both Mr Stott's writing and the plethora of illustrations in the book give the reader a clear insight into the lives and loves of the many characters who have and still do make a daily contribution to the gastronomic well-being of the area: the people who grow veg on their allotments, the people who knead our bread and the many cooks, chefs and restaurateurs who are dedicated to serving a wide variety of food to comfort, console, cajole and celebrate our culinary curiosity.
It is clear from this book that the Cowley Road has always been a crucial artery feeding the heart of Oxford a rich diet of culinary and cultural diversity essential to the City's success. As well as the peripatetic student population the area has always welcomed immigrants and this has been reflected in the road's many food outlets. More recently, as covered in Chapter Four of the book, the Cowley Road has also been the focus of food counter-culture in the City with a wholefood revolution and support for Fairtrade, organic food and farmers' markets.
The book's easily accessible format and straightforward recipes give a great insight into this fascinating area of Oxford with the additional benefit of great food to eat once you have enjoyed exploring the area, tracking down your ingredients and followed one of the recipes.