For the love of cookbooks

19:42, Oct 03 2013

I don't talk about non-fiction books much on this blog, but one of my secret vices has always been cookbooks. I enjoy cooking (and by default, also eating), but if I'm to be honest, the reason I love perusing cookbooks isn't because I want to spend my weekends making beef bourguignon from scratch.

It's because I get genuine pleasure from looking at photos and reading the stories behind the recipes. There's nothing sadder or more boring than a cookbook that's just filled with recipes. Though I'm sure there's much to recommend the Edmonds Cookbook in terms of simplicity and ease of use, it's something I wouldn't have on my shelves.

Good cookbook writing is as much about telling the reader of your journey to those recipes - whether it's a bowl of noodles slurped up by the roadside, or your mother's Kiwifruit cheesecake, a hand-me-down refined by generations of women in the family. 

Recipes that come with stories and great photography are so much more appealing somehow, visually and literally. It just hits you in the feels, yo.

I also follow a lot of food blogs, and was pleased recently to receive a copy of Laura Vincent's Hungry and Frozen, based on her popular blog of the same name. It probably helps that I really like her recipe for Christmas pulled pork, which isn't just for the Yuletide, I might add.

On a random side note, there is also Colin McQuistan, who decided to combine his two favourite things of cats and food, and create a stir fry out of chicken catfood, gherkin, sugar snap peas, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, Yeungs Chinese Curry Mix and sweet chilli sauce. Apparently the result was only about 1 per cent edible.


Gosh, now I have to try and bleach that image out of my brain.

One of the cookbooks I've been drooling over since I got it has been Al Brown's Go Fish. I'm a big fan of seafood, but Al has such a lovely way of describing them too. I found the section about Bluff oysters particularly informative. It's a mystery why these shellfish are shucked and thrown into pottles, instead of being left in the shell.

Earlier in the year, I bought a copy of The Accidental Vegetarian, mainly because I'm curious about vegetarian cuisine and have heard that it's a good introductory tome.

I've always felt slightly guilty about not having more vegetarian meals, because I know that in some ways, the growing, harvesting and eating of meat is inefficient and wasteful (and to some, cruel) - yet I've always thought of vegetarian and vegan cooking as a nearly impossible feat. It's probably quite sad, but not having grown up around it or been taught the skills, seasoning and flavouring a meal without meat is something I find hard.

The final cookbook I'll mention is Secrets of the Red Lantern, by Pauline and Luke Nguyen. It's part memoir, part cookbook, and a perfect example of what I think most cookbooks should be - expeditions into the real heart of cooking, which revolves more around the creation and communal eating of meals, not just the handling of ingredients.

What are your favourite cookbooks and why?

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