Thursday, October 25, 2007

Murdering my darlings!

I was asked a seemingly simple question the other day – “what is your favourite cookbook?” And it threw me, a dozen or so titles rushed into my head like little butterflies and then flitted out again. But as for a favourite, one that is above all others, that is very tricky! I’m not sure if I can really equate it to having to select a preferred child, but it feels so wrong somehow!
Firstly there’s rather a lot to choose from, I stopped counting years ago but it’s a few hundred maybe about five. They outgrew my bookshelves many moons ago and now they are stacked higgledy piggeldy in frankly rather a precarious fashion on top of one another and often challenge me when I wish to consult one from ‘the middle’. And I even had to buy a special step stool for reaching the uppermost level. But as I run my fingers along the shiny colourful spines the question again arises, which of all these delicious cookbooks is my number one? The problem is that some are old friends like Alastair Little’s Keep it Simple, Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food, John Pawson and Annie Bell's Living and Eating, Richard Corrigan's cookbook, Patricia Wells and Joël Robuchon's Cuisine Actuelle and Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and other Stories. Then there's the new kids on the block - Stéphane Reynaud Pork & Sons, Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home, Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini, Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Italy and the very new and very fabulous Simon Hopkinson's Week in Week out. There's books I like to consult when I'm in the mood for a certain sort of food - Mark Hix's British Regional Food, Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, Margaret Costa's Four Seasons or Sophie Conran's Pies. Or maybe I wish to be reminded of a much loved particular dish like Gordon Ramsay Beef Fillet from Secrets, those little cheese fondues from Gary Rhodes' Keeping it Simple, crispy bacon and cheese salad and many other dishes from Nigella's Lawson's How to Eat or the poached egg inside a ravioli from Anna del Conte's Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes.

I still haven't decided which I want to declare as 'my ultimate favourite' but here's twenty that I love for starters. Though the more I think about it, the more I want to alter my list. I always felt for the Rob character in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (recreated so wonderfully by John Cusack in the 2000 film) when he is asked to name his top five records of all time. He is in a similar quandary and constantly reconsiders and refines and hones his list until he finally believes he has got there. And he is right, selecting tunes poses a particular conundrum, there's that song to remind you of that precious moment so long ago, the song to raise your spirits when a little blue and the song that always, no matter what you're doing, makes you stop and smile and maybe even send a little frisson or a little chill through your body. Okay, it's hard to convey the same sort of passion with cookbooks but many are my trusted companions and others are the ones I hope will join this select circle of friends and you have to admit - friends are extremely important so I must choose wisely!

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