Paperbacks: A Late Dinne, by Paul Richardson

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The Independent Culture

For those of us who endlessly ponder the eternal mystery of whether Italian or French cooking has the edge, this revelatory, salivary volume suggests we may have been barking up the wrong culinary trees.

From the introductory account of his first visit to Madrid in the Eighties ("tin platters of prawns alla plancha, juicy steamed mussels, squid in its own ink..."), Richardson makes a powerful argument for the supremacy of Spanish food. His descriptions, graphic to the point of pain for the gourmand, range from the seafront at Benidorm ("The snails, cooked in a sauce with a slight hint of chilli heat, were so good that I decided to stay put") to the Olympian heights of gastronomy in Catalonia, where a caipirinha made with liquid nitrogen was followed by strips of monkfish liver with sesame sauce ("delicious beyond imagining") and fried rabbit ear, "like the best pork scratching in the world". We are, of course, in El Bulli, regularly voted best restaurant in the world. Ferran Adrià's heavenly titbits are the apogee of a culture where working-class women in Cadiz pay €22 per kilo for prime tuna and Seville farmers produce the world's best ham from the "black and comely" Iberico pig. Pack Richardson's eloquent, tasty book with the sun cream and your Spanish holiday will be transformed.