I have a theory about people who love cookbooks.
Sure we enjoy the pretty photos. We like the recipes- though we’ll probably cook a maximum of five from each book piled up on our shelf. But what we want most, is a story. So apart from the fact that I don’t need to have 3 pans, a food processor, blender and a wooden board all queued to be to washed up after dinner, chalk that up as one more reason why Jamie’s X Minute Meals aren’t for me. Because sneakily, there’s no preamble to those recipes any more. The book just launches you straight in. Photo, recipe, next page. Which to me, robs you of half the fun.
So, if you know of someone who loves food, but also loves to read, here’s a short list of some great food reads. These are cook books and books about food where there’s been as much care taken with the words as with what’s in the photo on the opposite page.
Nb, for one more book with stories to go with your recipes, sadly you’ll have to wait until April (but you could always pre order and have your Christmas parcels form more of an IOU)….
Great books for reading, as well as cooking
Adam Roberts’ Secrets of The Best Chefs
Adam Roberts (aka Amateur Gourmet) has produced a beautiful book, stuffed full of insights and energetic introductory essays to the style of the 50 chefs from around the US who he went to learn from. For sneaky watchers of ‘Top Chef Masters’ (confession, I watch old seasons on my iphone when I’m on the cross trainer) there are plenty of familiar faces there between two hard, glossy covers. The introductions and hints are great enough to motivate you to cook what’s listed afterwards. I’ve already made Naomi Pomeroy’s Lentilpalooza and Hugh Acheson’s chicken in cider vinegar. And it occupied my bedside table for a week, being read cover to cover before I turned in each night. It’s a delight.
This is one for those who like to read. It’s a beautiful tome that tracks the seasons in Nigel Slater’s London kitchen. Reading it is as comforting as donning slipper-socks. There’s a lovely heft to it and a soft hewn spine. Nigel is as delightfully unpretentious as ever in his descriptions of taste, flavour and cravings and there’s such a cheerful dotting of food and historical trivia throughout. There are also a good smattering of photographs of the recipes. It’s a book to savour and dog ear. I’m already itching for the right occasion to make his marmalade and dark chocolate chunk ice cream. Nb, his first edition of The Kitchen Diaries is also a cracker.
Billed as ‘recipes from his kitchen notebook’ Let’s Eat is much more than that. I love the way that Tom Parker Bowles writes. This is a man who’s well familiar with his active verbs. The lengthy, proper descriptions of the merits of each dish vibrate off the page. For royal watchers, there’s the novelty of learning his mother’s roast chicken. But the greatest delights come from his chapter of ‘From far-flung shores’, tracing his travels to Thailand, Mexico, Central America, China, Japan and India. And his recipe for ‘Proper Ribs’ (covering three pages) is killer.
I think any food and book lover would be pretty chuffed to get any of those books under their tree.
And for me?
I know I’m a little late to the party (it was published in 2008), but after rave reviews from both my tree-changing mother and sister, I’m treating myself to Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Mineral on Kindle to take away with me this festive season.