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Paying your dues

I've been thinking a lot about ownership recently.

I work in two spheres where originality is a nebulous concept. In writing we talk of all influences having a direct bearing on one's personal style, an unconscious script. If you've read Creeley then some Creeley ineivitably creeps in; if you've read Berrigan then some wanders up without you realising; if you've read Andrew Motion then you'll make fucking sure that none gets anywhere near you whatsoever. In cooking we damn well know about influences having a direct bearing on one's personal style. All those of us cooking at some point owe a debt to Careme, to Elizabeth David, to Escoffier, to Mrs Beeton, to an unnamed army of cooks down the centuries.

I've been thinking about this because I think I've found the line. A grauniad review of some overpriced london eaterie made reference to a deep fried jam sandwich, a dish which I fucking well KNOW to be a creation of the talented bunch in the kitchen at Liverpool's 60 Hope St (which, despite good notices for the frankly overrated London Carriageworks remains liverpool's best restaurant). Now, I knock out a hazelnut tart which is a direct lift from Sat Bains, which I'm sure to mention. My raspberry shortcake is Jeremy Lee's raspberry shortcake, to be frank. When customers comment, I make sure those guys get the credit.

Where it gets murkier is when recipes are adapted, mutated. I serve a honey cheesecake which owes something to James Martin, but I've tinkered with the recipe to an extent that I can confidently claim it as my own. My tomato sauce owes a little something to Elizabeth David, but more to north africa, which was my doing (though it wasn't, because it took thousands of years of culinary tradition to get to the stage where a blue-eyed gaijin like me comes along and lifts the idea for his own). Conversely I know I was knocking out heavily spiced chickpea stews years before Nigel Slater stuck a recipe for one in his observer column.

But what I never do is fail to acknowledge when the idea was someone elses. Which is what this grauniad review did. Which got on my nerves. Hence this blog post.


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