Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Food Almanac - Miranda York

I've been on a little bit of a food related book spree recently (The Little Library Christmas, The Food Almanac, and after she said it was appearing already in shops Caroline Edan's 'Red Sand's about 3 weeks earlier than I expected to be able to buy it). I've only had time to glance at 'Red Sands' which I picked up on Monday - the benefit of getting it early is that I still had quinces to make a really good lamb and quince plov with, but it looks great. It's also a hard book to define. It certainly has recipes in it, and food is central to the writing, but it is more travel book than recipe book.

'The Little Library Christmas' has a higher proportion of recipes to text, but it covers much more than food and pushes a little at the bounds of what a traditional cook book is (in my mind anyway) too. 'The Food Almanac' does the same kind of thing - food and drink is at it's heart, but explored in all sorts of ways. 

Once a habit is formed it can be the devil to break even when it's something that you wouldn't necessarily consider addictive. This is my relationship with my kitchen - for a decade between my mid twenties and mid thirties I busily collected books and equipment, most of which I had a definite need for, or which at least catered to whatever fad was of the moment (I never really did get into icing biscuits despite a brief enthusiasm for the idea). A decade and more later I still can't shake the habit of gathering things in, despite long since having run out of space.

Whilst I can now walk past a display of china, glassware, or pots and pans with only the briefest pause I still can't resist cookbooks. I sort of need to learn how to though because as well as having no space money is also short. It would be easier to resist if writers didn't keep doing new and interesting things.

'The Food Almanac' is a neat example of this. I probably wouldn't buy another seasonal cookbook (that's probably a lie - depending on who wrote it, but as I'm only really trying to kid myself, please excuse me) but a book that takes me through the seasons with recipes, menus, poems, essays, folklore, book recommendations, and a celebration of toast? Count me in. 

I hope that 'The Food Almanac' becomes, if not a yearly publication, at least a series that comes out every couple of years. It's not much bigger than a paperback, the ideal book to give as a no pressure gift to anyone else who really enjoys their kitchen time, and the perfect book to take if you're self catering somewhere on holiday. There are things to cook, things to drink, and things to while away a lazy afternoon with reading. 

Whilst I have nobody to cook for there's more than enough in here to entertain me beyond the recipes I want to try, which make it the perfect book to keep by my bed, or next to the sofa, to dip in and out of when there's time for a few pages. If I was 20 years younger it would have me planning a long wish list of books, as it is I can only hope that Faber (or someone) will decide to reprint Ambrose Heath's 'Good Savories' in an attractive edition and at a reasonable price. Meanwhile there's a wealth of things to enjoy here in a book that's more comforting and sustaining than a bowl of chicken soup. 

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