An ode to cookery writers

Some of my favourite writing comes from cookery books. While I am not a great chef by any means, I do enjoy eating and therefore find myself perusing the books below on a frequent occasion.

Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros, as the name might suggest, is a dreamy book. The recipes are all linked to Kiros’ family and heritage which includes Finland, Cyprus and Italy. Here, little family traditions along with each country’s culinary culture combine to create some beautiful dishes. Each recipe is personal with various anecdotes dotted in, conjuring sumptuous imagery of Cyprian heat and cool Nordic mornings. It is impossible not to try and recreate at least one of the recipes. I particularly love the beginning of the book which has an illustration of Kiros’ family tree.

Next up is the fascinating 19th century Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. From the first chapter where the mistress of the house is introduced as a militant commander, you know you are in for a real tour-de-force. Mrs Isabella Beeton is a precise, informative writer who is as economic in her language as the advice she dispenses for running an efficient household. Here you can find everything from a recipe for Walnut ketchup to instructions on what to say in conversation with friends. My typical emotions after reading Mrs Beeton: amazed, exhausted and thankful I am not a middle-class Victorian housewife in charge of multiple staff members and children.

“Leave the skins on before immersing them in the softly bubbling syrup, and peel them later; you’re left with a plate of perfect, pale mounds splodged pink, like the cheeks of a painted mummer.” Recipe for Poached Peaches from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat

I think the first thing I ever made properly was a chocolate cake from Nigella Bites– although compelled to make might be a better description. I fell in love with Lawson’s writing, reading her books is an experience akin to eating with words which fill the mouth. Food is adorned with delightful epithets (gleamingly, satiny, thickly-spread) along with much personality and humour.

There is an assurance in her writing which recalls the matronly cook writers of time gone by, but at the same time there is a wonderful dismissal of authority in the sense that there is no one absolute way to cook.

Nigel Slater’s writing is for me innately wholesome and unfailingly poetic. Like Nigella, his way of cooking is about eating as you please and so his recipes are always a leisurely and calming affair. In The Kitchen Diaries series, recipes are sorted in a journal style by season which means sensory overload. Be prepared for mouth-watering visions so vivid you can taste the food- I still think about one particular recipe for warm marzipan buns . Slater often talks about ‘ritual’ in his books which I think is so fitting when it comes to food, reading these makes for a warming experience at any time.

“Winter cooking is clouds of mashed potato flecked with dark green cabbage, roasted onions glistening like brass bedknobs….” From Nigel Slater’s The Christmas chronicles

Do you like to read cookery books?

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