Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kitchen thinking

Pottering around my kitchen (radio 4 on in the background) browsing through cook books, a cup of tea or
coffee to hand, and planning things to make comprise some of the most contented moments in my life. In a quiet way it's often where I'm happiest, it's the room I miss most when I'm away, and it's where a lot of my favourite toys live. I don't attribute any particularly mystical properties to cooking or welcome any pressure to emulate a particular lifestyle, but for me it works and the books are an integral part of that - I like following a recipe, love understanding how a dish is put together and finding the flavours which define a specific style.

Because of all these things I'm always looking out for cookbooks and regardless of the ones I go home with it's fascinating to see what's out there. I have definite cookbook turn off's - I don't really care for pink covers, I prefer content over style which is why I'm drawn to publishers like Prospect and Grub Street (who are quite stylish enough and have the classiest of content) and have lost patience with Tessa Kiros' books which are far to pretty to get grubby (also one of them arranges recipes by colour which is a cute idea, but cute isn't really my thing - not that I'm parting with it). I can resist the lure of classic French (as opposed to regional French) food, this is partly because francophiles annoy me, (not the French, I don't have a problem with the French, honest) and partly because it's the sort of food that I want to be cooked for me. 

Despite those prejudices I've managed to gather quite a collection of cookbooks - and still want more, but finding a book that fills a gap isn't easy which is one reason to be so excited by Lindsey Bareham's 'The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales'. I hadn't really registered Bareham as a food writer before despite having her soup book on my shelf but I'm aware now. I haven't actually looked at any of recipes in here yet, but I've sat up late of an evening reading about all the bits and pieces of kit - the premise of  'The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales' is that the equipment we use on a daily basis gather as many memories and as much meaning as the food we cook and share so here Lindsey takes the utensils as the cue for each recipe whilst giving helpful advice on sourcing and caring for those utensils. 

Memories aside I've had ample opportunity over the last couple of weeks to consider how much equipment shapes what I cook. My stepmother is a cook by trade so despite their place in the Borders basically being a holiday home the kitchen is reasonably well equipped - and it has the beloved aga. The aga invites it's own kind of cooking (muffin, scone, and stew heaven for a week) but other things bought me up short (couldn't find a mortar and pestle), it's funny how much you appreciate something when you suddenly don't have it to hand. I won't cook in my partners kitchen if I can help it - I've never got used to his fan oven and no longer like cooking on gas (I have long hair and once managed to singe the ends of it on a gas ring, I was lucky, it could have been nasty. I wear my hair up now.) more fundamental however is that he doesn't even have a rolling pin - he and his kitchen are perfectly adapted to each other but for me it's hard work.

'The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales' has got me thinking and feeling inspired - always a good start, expect to see plenty more about it here!

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