In our digital age, recipes in their thousands – usually impersonal, briefly written formulas – can be found online within seconds. First, Catch – which does contain recipes, albeit in a different form to those 'neat little lists' – is a kind of riposte to this approach, reacquainting readers with the serious business of cooking and eating by dedicating 200-odd pages to one meal alone ... Eschewing fuss and frills, Eagle’s focus is on ingredients cooked well, without overt showiness, yet with intelligence and technique, using human skills rather than modern technology. The zeitgeist is palpable ... The result is an intriguing story that touches on such esoteric subjects ... Literary references are equally wide-ranging ... What grounds the book, though, is Eagle’s deep, practical understanding of cooking, acquired through many years in countless kitchens, and his cheerfully greedy love of eating ... The physicality of cooking gives a satisfying weight to his prose ... Appropriately, Thom Eagle’s prose requires the reader to pay close attention to his words in order to appreciate the digressive, nuanced points he makes. The result is a book as rich and rewarding as the rabbit stew he spends so many chapters making.
Why did this book take two years to cross the Atlantic? ... Eagle’s digressions have him tackling important, moral subjects, too ... He encourages us to think about how the animals we eat lived, and the voyage those fruit and vegetables took, before they arrived in our kitchen. He points out the dangers faced by commercial fisherman in their work and argues, in exhaustive detail, the case for eating rabbit. In short, he wants us to re-examine and respect what we eat ... Described as a chef and fermenter, Eagle is more importantly a thinker and a philosopher who cooks. Luckily for us, he writes about cooking, too. While he is opinionated, and you won’t agree with him on everything, he is practical, informative, and has a sense of fun. Eagle loves food on the plate and on the page. Everything about food interests him: its taste, its history, and the culture and meaning behind what we eat. In what other food book would you find mentions of Lawrence Durrell, Wind in the Willows, blood, and bacteria? And he is not a food snob, admitting he once ate so much chocolate he couldn’t breathe ... This engaging book belongs on the bedside table as well as in the kitchen. Free of intimidating photographs, it will liberate you from performance anxiety when you cook and allow you to revel in the process, appreciating even the smallest details. It will make you a better cook.
In two dozen short chapters linked like little sausages, he serves up a bounty of fresh, often tart opinions about food and cooking as he takes us on an informative tour through the myriad things that go into an ambitious, multi-course early spring meal. By things, I don’t just mean ingredients or steps. Eagle’s approach to food is more fundamental and wide-ranging than that ... Eagle is a natural teacher; his enthusiasm and broad view of food preparation is both instructive and inspiring ... Eagle's prose, while conversational in tone, is as crafted and layered as his cuisine. Never bland, it is also brightly seasoned with strong opinions ... Readers should be warned that while Eagle’s instructions for dicing vegetables are among the clearest I’ve seen, his description of butchering rabbits is not for the squeamish and is unlikely to woo any vegetarians.