“Carrying the language of food in their hearts”
This time of year, I often sit in front of the fire with a pile of cookbooks at my feet like a little group of faithful dogs. I pick them up one by one, leaf through the pages in a leisurely manner, not necessarily looking for recipes for tomorrow’s dinner.
Cookbooks filled with ingredients and methods can be strangely devoid of a voice or a story that makes me care about the food described. I know why I cook, what joy it gives, what sadness it soothes, what lessons it offers.
I want to read a book by a cook who writes about her own obsessions, desires, and failures and about her particular links to the kitchen.
Out of the many cookbooks that I read and love, a few favorites always make me feel that I have come home.
I am unashamedly enamored of Nigel Slater and his gorgeous, juicy, two-volume set, Tender. Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray of the River Café in London have three books filled with beauteous food and instructive prose.
Marcella Hazan’s straightforward and classic take on true non-Americanized Italian food is frequently found open on the counter at dinnertime. There is southern Edna Lewis and so-very-American James Beard, Marion Cunningham, and Jasper White. There is Alice Waters. There is the irreplaceable Joy of Cooking.
Then there are the books I take to bed with me to read slowly and carefully while I lean back into my pillows, not worried about what time I have to get up in the morning.