Chef, television presenter and food writer Paul Merrett describes a ‘rival’ book in the pages of his own: ‘The book is basically a journal written by some bloke who has never gardened before, and he takes the reader on a month-by-month journey through the gardening year.’ Merrett admits, ‘I only read about three pages before realising the book I am struggling to write has already been written.’ This succinctly describes Merrett’s allotment project, which one can’t help feeling was done as much because he was given a commission to write the book, as because he eventually develops a passion for gardening.
Then, halfway through, ‘Using the Plot’ unexpectedly changes tack. Like the Rodriguez movie that starts off as an action flick then in the middle turns into a vampire movie, ‘Using the Plot’ turns into a recipe book. Surely these recipes are tied in with the allotment theme? Not unless your allotment produces sea bass, chorizo and lamb, among many other ingredients.
In its favour, Merrett’s recipes are often good, and some of them you’ll find at his restaurant, The Victoria. The book is beautifully designed, with plenty of attractive food photography. And if you’re a Merrett fan, you’ll find the details of his family life and the allotment project interesting and engagingly written. But as this is neither a book for gardeners nor a dedicated cookbook (is this where you’d turn for a vegetable samosa recipe?), it’s hard to see who it’s aimed at.