Oh dear, I meant this post to go out on Saturday but I'm still miserable with my cold (and if it sounds like man flu than it probably is, but I've been at work all day being extremely patient and so reserve the right for a bit of a whinge now). Sunday was devoted to James Bond and a family gathering but here I am, back home, in my pyjama's, considering another hot toddy and ready to blog.
A goodly portion of my book pile has come courtesy of Prospect Books, one of them particularly (Messy Cook) I've had for months without ever seeming to find the time to have a proper look at it so I thought the best thing might be a quick run through of these four titles prior to a better look later.
Michael Raffael's 'Messy Cook' is a book with recipes that wants to be read. It has short stories, experiences, a bit of philosophy, and some instructions - in short there's a whole lifetime's accumulated knowledge, the proper appreciation of which will take some time. I need to find that time somewhere, but until I do - this book looks great, absolutely perfect for anyone interested in cooking and food.
Caroline Conran's 'Sud de France - The food and cooking of the Languedoc' is a slightly more traditional cookbook in that it seems to be slightly more focused on recipes than philosophy. I know a lot of people who would love this book, but not being a francophile it might have been a bit of a hard sell for me until I read the magic words cuisine du terroir. Terroir is a concept that I not only believe in but get quite excited by. The idea that you can taste geography - and culture - is quite seductive, and is the basis for much of my love of cookbooks, so once again I'm looking forward to spending more time with this book.
Peter Brears 'Cooking and Dining in Medieval England' deserves to be a best seller as well as winner of the Andre Simon food book of the year award (2009). You can taste history in food as well, and never more so than at Christmas when all those dried fruits, nuts, and spices hark back to at least the middle ages and all sorts of culinary explorations. (I really love mince pies.) When I first got this book I started flicking through it until I finally put it down at something like 2 am. Everything is in here; what was eaten, how it was eaten, where it was eaten, or made - everything, right down to the lengths of tablecloths and how they went on the tables and it's all really interesting (because honestly, it might not have been). Interestingly Brears has reconstructed the recipes using contemporary ingredients so cooking from this book should be quite easy.
Last but not least I also got a copy of Dorothy Hartley's 'Lost World'. Hartley's best known book is 'Food in England' a complete guide to the food that makes us who we are. It hasn't been out of print since it was first published in 1954 and is familiar to me from many, many, bookshelves (though somewhat inexplicably not my own). Lucy Worsley is presenting a programme about Dorothy Hartley on BBC4 at 9pm Tuesday (6th November) which should be good. meanwhile 'Lost World' is a collection of her journalism written between 1933 and 1936 and covers a range of rural matters from a time when farming and country life were changing fast. It's a beautiful book.