Saturday, July 24, 2004

How To Eat:Cookbook

I was very fortunate to grow up in a household of eaters. My family genuinely enjoyed food, and still does. My parents grew fruit and vegetables and even raised chickens for a while. No one was a picky eater and we all ate dinner together every night. My mom did the cooking in those days and she was a fabulous cook. She even baked bread and canned fruits and vegetables and made jams. Later after my dad retired he took the lead in the kitchen. While his style is different than my mothers, he's also a talented and creative cook.

So often I meet people who have a difficult relationship to food. Their parents were not good cooks. They didn't enjoy each others company at mealtimes. They battled weight problems or health issues or childhood traumas that has lead to a diminished experience of food today. So who is the cookbook author for these sad folk? Nigella Lawson that's who.

Nigella Lawson not only loves food but wants to spread the joy. Her joy is of eating food, and being a home cook is a necessity and a pleasure. Her cookbook How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food is not just a "how to" but a "why bother" for those who perhaps never have bothered. Challenging conventional wisdom in regards to cookbooks, Nigella divides her recipes into sections such as basics, cooking in advance, one and two, fast food, low fat and weekend lunch. While those of us who love to cook might think this way about our recipes, it's refreshing for a writer to actually organize a book this way.

Another element of this book that makes it unique is the attitude. Or lack thereof. Nigella has long proclaimed she is not a chef, and recipes such as the one that intersperses the instructions to "draw your bath" in between making the pasta and the sauce, loosen the strict rigidity of by-the-book cooking. While some of her recipes are particularly British like Treacle Tart, mostly they reflect the way we cook and eat today--buying the best products we can, in season and cooking them to bring out their best rather than to impress. If you've been looking for a book that will show you how someone cooks things in real life as opposed to a restaurant or a test kitchen, this is your book.