Stinking Bishops and Spotty Pigs (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on March 20, 2019 No comments

I’m astonished that there are people in this world who don’t like cheese (those with dairy intolerances excepted). I realise the odour is simply offensive to some but to others that savoury waft sometimes with an undercurrent of farmyard is just the ticket to rev up the tastebuds. I’m definitely in the latter camp. The stinkier the cheese the better. Especially when it’s so ripe it threatens to run away at the first opportunity. So yes, I will gladly put up my hands and declare that I am a fan of Stinking Bishop.

What is the essence of the book?

Stinking Bishops and Spotty Pigs by Emma Kay is written in a similar vein to her earlier book ‘More Than A Sauce  on Worcestershire only this time the regional fare of Gloucestershire is the focus. Yes there is cheese (hurrah!) although it extends far beyond the smelly stuff and covers the history and modern food culture in this county.

About the author

Emma Kay is a food historian and author of six books, including one on Vintage Kitchenalia. She has a large collection of objects relating to the traditions and practices of the British kitchen which began when a friend bought her a Denby Greenwheat dinner service from the 1950s about 15 years ago. She also runs a historical cooking workshops further details of which are available on her website https://museumofkitchenalia.com. 

Who will like it?

This is perfect for anyone who likes their food and drink history in bite sized pieces (excuse the pun) but wants a bit more in-depth knowledge about a particular area. I know this may sound an oxymoron but it’s true. At 96 pages the book is relatively short but still packed with information. If this describes you and you happen to hail from Gloucestershire, it’s a double winner.

Who won’t like it?

If you believe that more than enough has been written about local food in Britain then you’re probably not going to have any interest in reading this, no matter how concise the book is.

What do I like about the book?

There’s a great mix of historical anecdotes and folklore with a peppering of provincial phrases  (like snoul – a small lump of cheese; or zoo-zoos also known as pigeons). What Emma is particularly good at is illustrating how the culinary map of the county has changed as a direct impact of social and environmental change.The waterways, which were once so vital to the textile industry Gloucestershire was renowned for, also spawned an elver industry (an elver is a young eel, especially one migrating up a river from the sea). Elvering could be a very lucrative business although not without its risks. It was essentially a form of poaching carried out in rivers at night. As well as erratic currents there were angry landowners and even thieves (who would snatch the poachers haul) to contend with. Never will I look at a towel draped over a chair in the same way again (apparently this denoted where elvers could be bought). Although elvers were once plentiful in Gloucestershire stocks have diminished over the years in part due to over fishing by French trawlers. Perhaps a custom not to be revived but it certainly should be remembered.

Is there anything I’m not so keen on?

I love to cook so personally I would like more recipes, although I accept this isn’t really the purpose of the book.

Would I cook from it?

Yes I would if there were more to cook from.

Where can you buy it?

Stinking Bishops and Spotty Pigs: Gloucestershire’s Food and Drink by Emma Kay (Amberley Publishing, 2019)

Sam BiltonStinking Bishops and Spotty Pigs (Book Review)

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