What’s the USP? The hosts of the hugely popular Table Manners podcast bring together popular recipes from the series, alongside homespun family favourites and a smattering of traditional Jewish dishes.
Who are the authors? Jessie Ware is a critically-acclaimed pop star with four albums under her belt. Lennie is her mum – a joyful presence on the podcast, where the duo have celebrity guests over to dinner in their South London home. The podcast has had a regular presence on the charts since launching with guest Sam Smith in November 2017. Since then, they’ve hosted around ninety episodes, featuring pop stars, actors, politicians and plenty of famous food writers.
The show makes the most of Jessie and Lennie’s irresistible chemistry – the loving bickering between parent and child, their mutual reverence for home-cooked meals, and the occasional awkwardness that comes from having frank, relaxed conversations whilst your mother is present (a recent episode saw Aisling Bea explaining the difference between ‘doggy style’ and ‘dogging’ to an endearingly curious Lennie).
Is it good bedtime reading? There’s not quite enough here to call the Table Manners cookbook bedtime reading. There’s a relatively lengthy intro by Jessie (which has that distinctive writing style usually seen in celebrity biographies – easy to read, but informal and a little… ghostly) and a significantly briefer intro by Lennie (which is exactly as straight-forward and dryly sentimental as your own Mum’s occasional Whatsapp messages).
Beyond that, there are short chapter introductions from the duo, as well as brief descriptions ahead of each recipe, which Jessie and Lennie take turns to do. There’s no real depth or insight in most of these – at least, nothing that fans of the podcast won’t already have heard plenty of. Curiously, then, for a celebrity cookbook, Table Manners real draw is the recipes themselves. Now that’s a pleasant surprise.
Why’s that, then? Because – and there’s a little generalising here, but bear with us – celebrity cookbooks are generally a bit crap. For the most part, they’re built around the cult of the celebrity themselves and, with so many celebrities living intensely regimented existences, the recipes tend to be basic, uninspiring and intensely worthy.
Pop star cookbooks in particular tend to be soulless collections of healthy bean stews and endless salads or, in the case of the curious sub-genre of cookbooks by rappers, big portions of American stodge. It’s rare to find a book that is filled with genuinely tempting recipes, foodie knowledge, and a true representation of the author’s personal food culture.
There have been, of course, a couple of exceptions to the rule. Action Bronson’s Fuck, That’s Delicious has been widely lauded, and Kelis (who happens to be Cordon Bleu trained) has, in My Life on a Plate, created a book that genuinely deserves a place on any bookshelf. But titles like these are few and far apart. That Table Manners might well deserve a spot alongside them is a decent feat.
What will I love? Though the two authors don’t really show their personalities off in their writing, they absolutely shine through their dishes. On the podcast, Lennie’s cooking, in particular, often sounds absolutely irresistible and it’s nice to see that come across here as well.
In keeping with the show’s premise you’d be proud to serve any of these dishes at a dinner party. Despite Lennie’s frequent hesitancy towards vegan cooking on the podcast, there are plenty of options for vegans and veggies alike throughout the book.
The highlight of the entire collection is a chapter dedicated to the Jewish dishes that have played a big part of family life over the years. Lennie’s chicken soup has found a cult following of its own since Table Manners started three years ago, and it’s showcased here alongside brisket, gefilte fish and the most alluring chopped liver I’ve ever seen.
What won’t I love? There’s not much to call this book out on. The crisp, bright design does have a distinct air of a ‘clean-living’ cookbook, but there’s no proselytizing here – in fact, though many of the recipes might fit the mould, you’d likely not even think about it if the design didn’t so frequently echo that of an Amelia Freer or a Hemsley title.
Should I buy it? Table Manners is a lovely collection of recipes – bright, delicious dishes that capture the heart and soul of the podcast and its stars. The excellent selection of Jewish recipes will offer many readers insight into a cuisine they might not have explored before. It isn’t a vital addition to any shelf – but it still has plenty to offer.
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Brighton-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Table Manners: The Cookbook
£22, Ebury Press
Cook from this book
Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
‘Triple Threat’ Chocolate Brownies