Advantages: A wonderful introduction to part of the self-sufficient lifestyle
Disadvantages: The photography can be bad in places - not a major worry
I bought this book on the back of the television series River Cottage which Hugh presents.
A little background on the series first. It is essentially following the smallholding exploits of the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In this series we get to see Hugh grow fruit and vegetables, bring up, and send to slaughter, livestock and we watch his progress as he becomes accepted into the hierarchy of Country Living in West Dorset.
Now as is the norm today, sooner or later the TV tie-in book comes along, and this is it. Although the River Cottage television series was essentially about food, it did also say a lot about 'country living', whether real or some rustic, romantic notion dreamed up by city-dwellers hoping to one day escape, the series attempted to show this.
The book on the other hand leans more towards the foodie who wants to be a smallholder. If you are after a simple recipe book, be warned, it is not just that. Yes there are recipes in here, but there is also a wealth of information about fruit, vegetables livestock and the process of these becoming food. It is a good general read and will definitely whet the appetite (or sensibly discourage) those who have considered becoming smallholders.
Be aware though, despite the books size and weight (447 pages) it is NOT a complete smallholders guide.
As a general read for those who have watched and enjoyed the River Cottage series, you should get something from this, at the minimum some interesting recipes. If you are interested being self sufficient at whatever level the information here is valuable, though probably not complete.
One criticism I have of this book is the photography. There are lots of photographs, which is great, but it looks as if the photographers have tried to use natural light throughout, to give the book a 'natural' feel in keeping with the spirit of the book. All this has achieved in my opinion is dark grainy/noisy shots, and quite frankly there is some bad-looking photography here. Some other shots look as if no thought has gone into them at all. Still, it all looks natural and organic, so perhaps it is fitting and contextual. Despite this I am still giving the book a five star rating.
Despite being a TV tie-in the book does stand up on its own
The cover price is £17.99. I would recommend you get it for a couple of quid on ebid.net, though unavoidably you will have to pay hefty postage on this heavy book, wherever you buy on-line, you should still get a used copy in VG condition for under a tenner all in, which is fantastic value.
Summary: Brimming with ideas for both the wanabe chef and smallholder