This delightful little book comprises seventeen essays on the act of cooking, the frequent shortcomings of cookery books and writers, and the manifold betrayals that kitchen gadgets visit on the cook. Julian Barnes moves elegantly from his own clumsy first attempts at cooking (tinned peas, tinned potatoes and bacon chop, anybody?) through an engaging critique of some of the better-known cookery writers, concluding with some philosophical musings on cooking as a moral act. Barnes is a self-taught cook - in his generation, boys were not routinely taught cooking - and he views his pedantry as a direct result of this: without the culinary instinct that some acquire through early involvement in cooking, he is entirely dependent on the recipe. This leads to an understandable irritation with vague notions like the "medium" onion and with inaccurate timings in recipes; chefs are particularly prone to these, forgetting perhaps that the amateur cook does not have an army of sous-chefs at hand to chop the vegetables.