11 July 2011
who do you read ?
A very wise, older cousin of mine once said that, when looking for a good cookbook, it can be very useful get to know a good food publisher. This cousin told me this in the context of a conversation a few years ago, when I had just discovered growing interest in cooking and was only discovering the true value of a great cookbook. At the time, E was taking about Phaidon, and right she was - for comprehensive, (exhaustive) reference, "go-to" cookbooks, Phaidon can always be trusted. Very good.
Recently, I have discovered a very high-quality AUSTRALIAN publisher that has published a very fine selection of cookbooks and other culinary lit - Hardie Grant. I realise these comments teeter dangerously close to sounding like a shameless plug, but this is really not !
I came across HG on twitter, via my wonderful local bookshop - Oscar + Friends. From A. A. Gill's Here and There, published earlier this year, Greg Malouf's delightful middle eastern cookbooks, through to publications by the Working Dog team, Hardie Grant's stables seem to be very astutely kept ! The useful thing, I think, about being familiar with a publisher who's taste you mostly trust, is that, by checking in with them from time to time, you are able to keep across new releases of books that you will probably be interested in but, which may have otherwise passed you by... you know ?
A few months back, the publicist from HG sent me a copy of Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer - a cookbook put out by (my husband's v favourite comedy team) Working Dog. I love this book - I think it's an ideal book for someone who is interested in starting to getting into Italian cooking and might just be that much more enticed by some very funny, Working-Dog-esque humour on every page !
Audrey's is more or less a spoof of the ever-more prevalent storybook-cookbook - those cookbooks that indulge in all sorts background information for each of the recipes on the page. Don't get me wrong - I'm not really a cynical person and I often find the little tid-bits of info given about the man who sold the fish, or the village that produces the olive oil very inspiring ! There are those, however, that go into detail about their grandmother's favourite hand-knitted socks that she wore everytime she hand-rolled gnocchi, and songs she sang and the opera career she would have had... self-indulgent, perhaps ? Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer is very humourous response to books like these.
And the recipes ? Well, the recipes are real, and they work ! I made the ricotta gnocchi, which were v easy (could have done with a little less flour), quick and tasty. The recipes are aimed at the beginner cook, with some very good, simple-but-tasty Italian dishes. The promise of tasty Italian food AND food comedy - if this doesn't get your not-so-foodie friends in front of a stove, maybe nothing will !
See next post for a comprehensive review of the first book by young British foodblogger and underground restaurant host, James Ramsden. I have been a fan of James' from way-back and was very excited to hear that he was to publish his first book. I was going to include the write-up here, but there really is too much (GOOD STUFF!) to say. If, however, you don't intend to stick around for that, I have two very serious words for you - Buy It.