Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

First, Catch

by Thom Eagle

Praised in Britain as a return to a forgotten tradition of literary food writing, a delectable and surprising celebration of cooking through the story of an early spring meal

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date March 10, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4822-3
  • Dimensions 6.125" x 9.25"
  • US List Price $25.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date March 10, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4823-0
  • US List Price $25.00

First, Catch is a cookbook without recipes, an invitation to journey through the digressive mind of a chef at work, and a hymn to a singular nine-dish festive spring lunch. In Eagle’s kitchen, open shelves reveal colorful jars of vegetables pickling over the course of months, and a soffritto of onions, celery, and carrots cook slowly under a watchful gaze in a skillet heavy enough to double as a murder weapon. Eagle has both the sharp eye of a food scientist as he tries to identify the seventeen unique steps of boiling water, as well as of that of a roving food historian as he ponders what the spice silphium tasted like to the Romans, who over-ate it to worldwide extinction. He is a tour guide to the world of ingredients, a culinary explorer, and thoughtful commentator on the ways immigration, technology, and fashion has changed the way we eat. He is also a food philosopher, asking the question: at what stage does cooking begin? Is it when we begin to apply heat or acid to ingredients? Is it when we gather and arrange what we will cook—and perhaps start to salivate? Or does it start even earlier, in the wandering late-morning thought, “What should I eat for lunch?”

Irreverent and charming, yet also illuminating and brilliantly researched, First, Catch encourages us to slow down and focus on what it means to cook. With this astonishing and beautiful book, Thom Eagle joins the ranks of great food writers like M.F.K. Fisher, Alice Waters, and Samin Nosrat in offering us inspiration to savor, both in and out of the kitchen.

Praise for First, Catch:

Winner of the Fortnum and Mason’s Debut Food Book Award
Shortlisted for the 2018 Andre Simon Food & Drink Book of the Year
BBC Radio 4 Food Programme Best Foodbooks of 2018
Times Best Food Books of 2018
Financial Times Summer Food Books of 2018

“A contemplation of cooking and eating, a return to the great tradition of food writing inspired by M.F.K. Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me . . . Eagle writes with a wit and sharpness that can turn a chapter on fermenting pickles into a riff on death and decay while still making it seem like something you would like to put in your mouth.”—Mark Haskell Smith, Los Angeles Times

“In two dozen short chapters linked like little sausages, he serves up a bounty of fresh, often tart opinions about food and cooking . . . Eagle is a natural teacher; his enthusiasm and broad view of food preparation is both instructive and inspiring . . . Eagle’s prose, while conversational in tone, is as crafted and layered as his cuisine. Never bland, it is also brightly seasoned with strong opinions . . . Rare among food writing, this book is bound to change the way you think about your next meal.”Heller McAlpin, Christian Science Monitor 

“Eagle, a chef and food writer, uses a nine-dish lunch as the occasion to ruminate about cooking, and life.”—New York Times Book Review

“A cookbook without recipes! First, Catch is an absolute delight from Thom Eagle, noted food writer, freelance chef, and expert fermenter. (Yes, fermenter.) In this beautifully bound book, you will not not find step-by-step instructions on how to cook an impressive meal for your friends, but the knowledge you will glean from sitting with this active and inventive mind will doubtedly liven the conversation. From slaughter to human connection, Thom Eagle will carry you through the unexpected aspects of food, and you will be hungry for more!”—Literary Hub

“In this gorgeously written debut, London chef Eagle reflects on the foods, customs, and histories that come into play in selecting and serving a multi-dish lunch. Twenty-four essays guide readers in meal preparation while offering curious tidbits, cultural insights, and moral arguments on food . . . This wonderfully indulgent, pleasurable compilation of culinary meditations will thrill food lovers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A thoughtful meditation on the craft, chemistry, and cultural history of cooking and the ‘inexorable currents of history and economics’ that influence taste . . . A graceful, enlightening contribution to food writing.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Like many contemporary chefs, Eagle likes to philosophize about ingredients . . . He looks at the most mundane, taken-for-granted elements of cooking and finds in them science, culture, and wisdom . . . Eagle’s ruminative prose offers as much for the mind as for the stomach.”—Booklist

“An assured, thoughtful, and entertaining meditation on the nature of cooking and how it touches on so many aspects of existence, not the least of which is death . . . Eagle enjoys thinking about food in all its ephemerality and here succeeds in sharing that experience. A solid pick for fans of food writers Nigel Slaters, John Thorne, or Laurie Colwin.”—Library Journal

“A one-off, the kind of food book that I believed was no longer being published. Instead of recipes, the young chef Thom Eagle writes a series of philosophical kitchen reveries: on seasoning with salt and fat, on blanching vegetables or on the slicing and cooking of onions. He writes so well about being in the kitchen—the ‘comforting tick of knife against board’—that when I reached the last page, I went back to the beginning.”—Bee Wilson, Times (UK)

“A book as rich and rewarding as the rabbit stew he spends so many chapters making.”—Jenny Linford, Times Literary Supplement

“I’m not sure what it says about the state of food publishing that it feels so tantalizingly transgressive to find a book that looks beautiful, feels lovely in the hand and just contains words — gorgeous, thoughtful essays on the making of a single early spring meal from a talented chef and writer.”—Tim Hayward, Financial Times

“A wonderful taste of fresh air. It is food writing that is allowed to breath, liberally… Almost revolutionary… Thom has a wonderful mind. This book contains his meandering thoughts as he cooks a single spring meal. There are recipes within the writing but this is the perfect antidote to a five minute meal cookbook. Thom doesn’t just say ‘boil a pan of water,’ he spends a few thousand words exploring this magical element, a deeper musing on water itself and how you can actually burn the stuff. His words are delicious, musical heaven.”—William Sitwell, Spear’s Magazine

“Thom Eagle’s writing is pure joy — effortless and unaffected. Even such a seemingly banal and simple thing as boiling vegetables is engaging and illuminating in his hands. He is easily one of my favorite writers, and this book deserves to become a classic.”—Olia Hercules, author of Mamushka and Kaukasis