John McKenna gets a sneak preview of The Cava Cookbook, published this week.
“The menu is a thing of happiness …” wrote Caroline Hennessy, editor for the McKennas’ Guides, on her first visit to Cava Bodega, just after Jp McMahon and Drigin Gaffey re-located CB to Middle Street, in the centre of Galway.
Happiness, indeed. Cava Bodega is not like any other restaurant. It has none of the conventions of other Irish restaurants, meaning that whilst it is a restaurant, it is a restaurant disassembled, a place where formality has been undone.
This is no surprise and, when you read and cook from Jp McMahon’s astounding new book, Cava Bodega, you will understand quickly what McMahon wants to achieve with his food, his room, his style. He spells it out himself:”I find Spanish cooking very emotional”, and, there in a single sentence, we have it: the bride stripped bare.
What the book reveals is that McMahon has made something new: this is a book of Celtic Cookery, the alliance of the Basques and the Catalans and the Galwegians and the men from Roscommon. McMahon takes his cue from Spain, but applies his cues to the west coast of Ireland. Above all, he has taken the emotionalism of Spanish cookery and Spanish winemaking, and transported them to his own adopted town.
As the recipes reveal, the transplant has been a clamorous success: here is a book from which you will cook every single dish, such is the eagerness, the lustiness, of the food.
But it’s not just the recipes that make the book such a success. The sense of involvement, of amity, of happiness that pervades the pages is almost narcotic, and so the book manages in its pages to echo McMahon’s core philosophy: ”food is the crux of the human experience” he writes, and this amazing book shows how true that is.
The limited edition Cava Cookbook, published this week by Cava Bodega is available from here.