Squirrel Pie (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on October 21, 2016 No comments


Perhaps it is my inherent hatred of these creatures but I was already enamoured with this book even before I had clocked the author let alone read it. Beatrix Potter may have found a friend in Squirrel Nutkins but for me these tree dwellers are nothing but vermin which decimate my fruit and vegetable crops every year. In my opinion a pie is a perfectly fitting end for them and having tried such a pie at the Historical Dining Rooms recently I can confirm that they also make  good eating.

What is the essence of the book?

Before the animal rights activists get up in arms about the nature of Squirrel Pie let me reassure you that this is not a book about destroying nature’s fauna. The pie in question comes from a chapter on the forests in Maine where squirrels have been traditionally hunted during a specified season to supplement the meat supply during the harsh winter months. It sets the scene for this culinary travel memoir by Elisabeth Luard which explores forests, islands, rivers and deserts across the world with some delicious recipes originating from each of the countries she describes in the book.

About the author

Prue Leith has stated that “Elisabeth Luard even beats Elizabeth David.” She is an incredibly accomplished and well respected food writer, journalist and broadcaster who was given the lifetime achievement award by the Guild of Food Writers in 2016. Her books include European Peasant Cookery and A Cooks Year In A Welsh Farmhouse as well as three highly personal memoirs. She is one of my all time favourite food writers so I wholeheartedly agree with Prue’s comment and don’t think it’s sacrilegious at all (I know, it’s very unlike me to admire a food writer with a pulse so highly).

Who will like it?

Obviously, if you share my sentiments about Luard you’ll like this book. If you’re not familiar with her work but love exploring other cultures through their culinary traditions then this book will be right up your street. It’s perfect for an armchair traveller.

Who won’t like it?

If your culinary tastes don’t like to stray too far from home and perhaps this book won’t appeal to you quite so much.

What do I like about the book?

Where do I start? Luard’s prose was compelling to read and had the ability to transport me to places I have never visited (but would love to now) in a few carefully worded sentences. Her astute observations range from poignant to witty. Although there are no photos in the book her own characterful pen and ink illustrations more than make up for their absence. Unless you have trodden the same path as she has I think you’ll also find the recipes, such as Hawaiian bouillabaisse or macaroni cheese with oysters, fascinating too.

Is there anything I’m not so keen on?

Not in the least! However, I would add the following proviso. Squirrel Pie has more emphasis on the memoir than cookery book genre. If you are looking for a book packed with recipes by this author try European Peasant Cookery.

Would I cook from it?

Despite what I’ve just said above, yes I would. The recipes that are included are really interesting and unusual. Some of the ingredients may require a little effort to track down but I’m confident these recipes would work just as well at home as they would in their native country.

Where can you buy it?

Squirrel Pie by Elisabeth Luard (Bloomsbury, £16.99)


Squirrel Pie at the Historical Dining Rooms in Bristol

Squirrel Pie at the Historical Dining Rooms in Bristol

Sam BiltonSquirrel Pie (Book Review)

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