With Louise Pfanner
Love and Hunger by Charlotte Wood is a most surprising book, and not so easy to define. More than a memoir of food and the place it takes in our lives, it’s also a celebration of creativity, and generosity, and the general well being that comes from living in balance. It’s not a preachy book, but it is helpful—full of recipes and ideas. The author doesn’t claim to be a chef, but is clearly a great cook, and someone who likes to share.
This is also a very literary book—full of allusions, and quotes, and memories of books read, and the characters in them (and what they ate). Memories of real people in Wood’s life, and the food associated with them flitter through each chapter, and the author’s well formed recollection of what she ate decades ago, all resonate and create a familiar and reassuring echo throughout the book. It’s amusing too. Charlotte Wood is very funny (see Animal People, her 2011 novel), and inspiring—I went out and bought a jar of honey and a pomegranate immediately (see recipe for Pomegranate Honey). She is also very encouraging—the book is mercifully free of titillating food photos, and it’s been very well edited to create a perfect combination of many elements, rather like a beautiful meal.
Homemade by Yvette Van Boven, is also a surprising book. It is a cookbook, and it is full of tempting photographs, but it’s written with such warmth and gusto, it’s impossible not to want to go to the kitchen and cook immediately. Yvette Van Boven is an Irish chef who runs a restaurant in Amsterdam, but this isn’t really restaurant food as we know it. The theme is ‘homemade’, and there’s nothing in the book that isn’t achievable for the home cook. The recipes are great, and the step-by-step instructions for rather arcane procedures are irresistible—whether making jam (outside in an orchard), making tea (from your own ingredients), chocolate or mustard, the recipes are all quite realistic (and adaptable). There’s also a terrific list of menu suggestions, and a chapter titled Don’t Forget the Dog. The ethos of the author pervades the whole book—there are lots of hand drawn illustrations, paper cut pictures, and evocative photos of people and places. Everything I have made from this book has worked too, and I’m taking great pleasure in working my way through the whole volume (it’s a big book, over 400 pages).
On a frivolous note, Moleskine have created a wonderful recipe journal, with a discreet embossed cover, and the usual black elastic band, this is a very well designed product. Lots of sections to write in, labels to add, and best of all an index to fill in at the back. Organised, but not officious!