Friday, February 6, 2009


I love cookery books but they also frustrate me. Being a visual person the pictures always catch my eye first and draw me in, but then the words often disappoint. Sometimes all you want to do is look up a quick recipe and get on with making it and there are books for that but I want more. I want a book I can lie in bed and read. I want to know who wrote the book, why they cooked this or that and who for, I want vision, I want to be inspired to do what they do, but in my own way. It seems to me that cookery books have been written the same way, to the same formula forever. Introduction, a list of store cupboard ingredients, basic utensils . . . . and so on. You know, when I get home with my shiny new book I don't want any of that. What I want to do is to open my pantry, take out what I have and just start cooking right then and there. This can only be accomplished with understanding - by knowing why things are done in a certain way, and yet most recipes just tell you what do without explanation. And this goes further - some of the instructions have been repeated unchanged for years. I myself have never salted and drained courgette or aubergine before use and I think with modern varieties it is unnecessary, yet it appears over and over again. If a book does need a list of knives to buy, then put it at the back. If I need to, I'll find it ; but don't stifle my enthusiasm before I get to pick up so much as an an onion. We mostly all have an eclectic mix of pans already so I'll be using the one at the front of the cupboard not rushing off to buy the one with the authors name on it ( that will go on a list for my birthday).

So character and directness, thats what I want, a book with a personality that reflects what's inside.

My favourite book is of course Appetite by Nigel Slater. It is not perfect by what I have just written but it inspired me from the first page with it's different approach.

So what is your favourite?

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SWEET MARY said...

I think you should write that book Peter - it sounds great!

Jodi said...

Oh, I couldn't agree more! My principal criterion for an excellent cookbook is if I can cozy myself into a chair or under a blanket and read it as if it were a novel.

I have a soft spot for the Silver Palate cookbooks, which were some of the first I owned. Each recipe has an interesting head note, the margins are filled with lore and tips, and special sections throughout explore ingredients, techniques, and kitchen-planning. In short, these books told whole food stories. I quickly learned that not all cookbooks took this approach, but these Silver Palate books taught me never to settle merely for a list of ingredients and a method.

missingbecheery said...

I love your blog, and I love what you have written here. Totally agree. Perhaps you would find my two food blogs interesting? They are:


Peter said...

Thanks Denise - I'm off to have a look now


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