Friday, September 29, 2006

C.A. - Cookbooks Anonymous

Okay I admit it. My name is J and I'm addicted to cook books! I don’t think there’s a local chapter of cookbooks anonymous but clearly I have a problem! I have been trying to cut down as there really is no room at the inn but there have been a slew of new good ones recently and I can't resist. What makes it worse is that they've been turning up every other day at the moment because many I pre-ordered from as soon as I got a whiff of its (pre)existence so I am overdosing. As that C time of the year is coming (for you D I will try not to mention the C word!) I guess the publishers are sending them out from mid September and all my parcels are coming at once.

I am still drooling over Anna Del Conte's fabulous collection and then Gennaro Contaldo's new book “Gennaro’s Italian Year” turns up, hot on the heels is Tamasin Day-Lewis's Classic Kitchen arrives and then yesterday a huge box turns up and I gulp thinking what have I ordered and it turned out to be Giorgio Locatelli's enormous tome “Made In Italy”. I hadn't actually pre-ordered Giorgio's but Nigel Slater waxed so lyrically in OFM this Sunday I felt obliged!

So where do I start? Gennaro's book looks really great; he has so much passion and is another incredibly instinctive Italian cook. In this book he goes back to his hometown on the beautiful Amalfi coast and talks about eating well and sympathetically with the seasons and is full of hearty Italian peasant food. I’d barely had a glance at Gennaro’s before Tamasin’s turned up.

I first discovered Tamasin Day-Lewis in 2000 when I was in Ireland for H’s wedding and thought I should supplement my then much smaller cookbook collection with a good set of Irish recipes. After flicking through a few fairly standard ones in a bookshop I fell upon Tamasin’s West of Ireland’s Summers which she’s written a couple of years earlier and I really enjoyed her style and recipes. I then started to see her on television and she brought “The Art of the Tart” out (which allows you to eat fabulous savoury flans without using the Q word!). Then there was “Tarts with Tops on” which was more about pies – never a bad thing. My Northern roots will always mean that there’s a special place in my heart for a pie! Her next books “Weekend Food” and “Good Tempered Food” didn’t seem to quite hit the mark and I wondered if they’d been thrown together a bit too casually. The next one “Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible” was back to the old excellent form and this new, slimmer book, though hardly as exhaustive at last year’s volume, looks mighty interesting. On first glance there’s a very intriguing recipe for Crab Custard, Risotto Balsamico which I must try and the madly names Piggy Figgies which is Figs in Lardo. Not an all time classic but interesting nonetheless.

And then there is the massive Giorgio book – definitely not one for the next flight! In fact it’s so heavy you may need protective clothing. I managed to drop mine and the corner caught my ankle and I now have a small hole. I may be scarred for life by a cookbook; maybe it is time to join Cookbooks Anonymous! No, maybe not. Giorgio’s book looks like a total winner. I hadn’t been able to even get past Antipasti before I had to leave for France and there was no danger of this fitting in my carry on bag. Nigel Slater in his review said the pasta chapter was worth buying the book for and I haven’t even had chance to gaze adoringly at it yet. Just the first few pages convinced me how obsessive Giorgio is about his food and the preparation and the sharing of it. He talks about he importance of conviviality or La Convivialità and of friendship and celebration. I can’t wait to get back and read more. The sign of a true addict I guess!

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