17 NOVEMBER 2001, Page 58

An abundance of the unnecessary

Digby Anderson

One of the welcome results of the current war, or at least of the atrocity which caused it, has been a slight increase in seriousness. In this new climate, the trivial and the self-indulgent can be seen for what they are. Cookery books with their ghastly glaring or minimalist pretentious illustrations are a prime candidate for both. They are certainly unnecessary: there are quite enough cookery books and recipes already published to keep anyone busy for a lifetime. Never have Britons cooked fewer meals than today. Never have they possessed more cookery books. What they do with them only the Lord, or the devil, knows. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Mr Blair introduced paper and print restrictions as in the second world war, which resulted in coarse muesli-like paper, no pictures and next to no white or light brown space? That would stop the cookbook industry in its tracks.

So food books have to be rather special to be worth any attention at all. What about these six? The first, Food Mania, is special and unusual. How good to have a food book with no recipes. It is simply a collection of pictures of food, of animals and vegetables, kitchens and equipment,

Cookbook by Stephen Bull (Macmillan, £20, pp. 234).

Le Gavroche Cookbook by Michel Roux Jn, (Cassell, £25, pp. 288).

The Cranks Bible: A Timeless Collection of Vegetarian Recipes by Nadine Abensur, (Cassell, £25, pp. 384).

Living and Eating by John Pawson and Annie Bell (Ebury Press, £25, pp. 302)