An open book on a table with a cup of coffee

Book Review | Eat Up, by Ruby Tandoh

2018 is the year of the non-fiction book, it seems. I have read fewer novels this year than usual, and it’s a testament to the fact that there are so many wonderful real-life reads to get through.

From memoirs by fellow millennials (Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love), to anthologies of witty and provocative columns (Caitlin Moran’s Moranthology), I’ve been nosediving into real-life stories and other people’s thoughts.

Combine this reading with one of my other favourite past times – food – and  you know it’s going to result in a firm favourite on my shelf.

I spend about 80% of my waking hours thinking about food; what to eat next, what I ate last night, what’s on the menu, what I ate when I was younger, what’s sitting at home in my fridge waiting for me to get back…

The other 20% of my time is actually spent eating the stuff.

It was time I started reading about it, too, and so Ruby Tandoh’s much acclaimed Eat Up seemed like the logical book to take home next.

Eat Up is an exploration of all things edible. It touches on our troubled relationships with food; guilt, gluttony, disordered eating, health trends and dieting. It examines heritage, multiculturalism, following roots and seeking solace in old family recipes for spiced stews and crumbles. It explores veganism, vegetarianism, the carnivorous and the omnivorous; and brings to life a thousand memories with tales of sweet treats and childhoods dripping with custard.

Ruby Tandoh's book, Eat Up, on a table with a coffee and an iced bun

This book is a delicious trifle of ideas and thoughts; layers upon layers of beautiful writing and opinions sharpened by experience. Ruby herself brings her own history with food to the forefront to discuss real issues, the sharpness of which is sweetened by delightful anecdotes, meaning that this book is not all dense and heavy like your elderly neighbour’s fruitcake, but is rather like a modernised Victoria sponge; light, fluffy, honest, trustworthy and with a twist (maybe lemon curd in the middle, and lime and coconut sprinkled on top. Yum.)

Ruby’s writing is an absolute joy to read. She is forthright when she needs to be, and speaks candidly and sharply; you can see where her heart – and stomach – lies, and she has you nodding along with her by the end of each chapter.

There are moments, too, where her writing is pure poetry; she brings food to life on the page. My mouth unashamedly watered with every page turn, and each anecdote had me reaching for a square of Galaxy, or another teaspoonful of Nutella (straight from the jar).

It is a really beautiful book; Ruby knows her way around the keyboard as well as she knows her way around the kitchen, or the Bake Off tent. Each word is carefully handpicked, seasoned, and ready to be devoured.

Eat Up really spoke to me; it mirrored my own passion for food and captured the exact way that certain dishes make me feel. It taught me a lot, and really made me think. One example being the connection between our very own British favourites (tea and sugar), and their origins; a history that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of any avid tea-drinker. It also gets back to basics; the pure action of consuming, our connection with nature, and eating from the Earth.

I read this book while hurriedly eating lunch in a 30-minute break; I read it on the sofa with a cuppa and a share bag of Wispa Bites; I read it in the window of a local bakery, one hand on the page, the other clutching a coconut and lime Nordic bun with sticky delight; I read it while eating jam on toast in bed (leaving a little of it behind on the paper, somewhere around page 30).

Reading Eat Up, I felt like Bruce Bogtrotter greedily guzzling down each phrase. I became Edmund, lusting after icing-covered sweet treats with each turn of the page. I was Charlie Bucket, excitedly grabbing at the cover to uncover gold inside. Hungry, and craving more.

If you’re as much of a fan of food as I am – if you enjoy reading about it, learning about its history, and considering its intense connection with emotion and human nature – I can’t recommend reading this book enough. Each chapter is a tasty course waiting to be consumed and relished, and each page deserves a bite taken out of it.

Read it; savour it; roll each carefully chosen word around your mouth and taste the ingredients that make up this truly brilliant book.

Just make sure you always have a snack to hand when you do; it’ll leave your tummy rumbling, and your taste buds begging for more.

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