Not Just Recipe Books

Over the Christmas holidays I had the chance to actually read some of the books on my shelves. One of the sad things about my job is that I am surrounded by the books I love but hardly get a chance to enjoy them.

And while I was discovering new recipes and jotting down which ones to try over the next few weeks I also really enjoyed having a good old read.

How many people actually read cookery books rather than just dip in and out for recipes? Those that don’t are missing out on a treat. Cookery book writers are passionate about their subject and this overflows into their creations.

Some books are written to be more than just recipes books such as The Settler’s Cookbook by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown with the experiences of her family in their moves around the world.

Of course the Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries epitomise the ‘blooming good read’ category of cookery book and I have read each one from beginning to end like a novel, and enjoyed cooking the food even more because of that. 

As the books I have go back back over 200 years (and in one case 400 years) it means that the style of writing changes drastically from one book to another. Each one assumes that the reader is of there time and is familiar with the subjects of their text and can identify with their ideals for the perfect food and in these I have found some fabulous ‘bon mots’ a few a which follow.

From the the foreword in what first appears to be a most uninspiring book – The Cold Table by Helen Simpson – while giving a potted history of chilled foods, includes the following  passage about Roman feasts.:-

‘But that the Romans did have such feasts I maintain: firstly on Blake’s theory that anything that can be imagined must be true; secondly, arguing from an undoubted proven fact that there were gourmets amongst the Romans, and to the man whose palate is his darling there is no pleasure more immediately more exquisite that a sudden frost upon the tongue’

In fact the whole intro is great and I immediately loved the recipes more.

Chapter One of Kitchen Ranging by Pearl Adam has always been a favourite opener. Entitled The Animal Who Cooks, it begins – ‘Man is the greatest animal of all, the animal who cooks’ He is also, it is thought, the only animal who has weighed the stars, invented handwriting, or discovered dressmaking’ A few of my favourite recipes come from this book including Ginger Apples.

And also found during this cookery book read in is the following, Found in the Souvenir Cookery Book of Leeds Maternity Hospital 1905 – “Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and Circe, and of Helen and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves, and savoury in the meats. It means carefulness, and inventiveness, and willingness, and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmothers, and the science of the modern chemist; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; and, in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always – loaf givers.” Ruskin.

A fine sentiment for the beginning of 2016.

Happy Reading and don’t just look at the recipes.

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