cookbook reviews: kitchen diaries, the breath of a wok, and my total love for nigella lawson

the breath of a wok: the recipes are lovely, but the prose leaves quite a bit wanting. i got the impression from kim o’donnell that it was part cookbook, part homage to chinese cookery, and indeed it is. the problem is that the homage is dreadfully written--trite, repetitive, and not enough detail. i’m sure that the intricacies of her family’s history with the wok and chinese cooking are delightful, but her difficulty in putting them to paper is too much for this reader, at least, to overcome. but, as i said, the recipes are quite nice and i look forward to adding a few of them to my cooking program.

the kitchen diaries:
earlier this week, i finally finished my much-anticipated read of nigel slater's "kitchen diaries," a year-long account of what happened in his kitchen and garden in london. i had hoped it would provide me with some inspiration, especially for writing about my food, and as an added bonus might have a few pictures or a pleasant recipe.

oh, how it was everything i hoped for and more. the writing was like food poetry. or porn, if one must be more graphic about it. every word conveyed this complete delight in food, even on those days where he was lazy or tired and just pulled a hunk of cheese and a slice of bread out of his refrigerator. i can only hope that with more concerted practice, i can express myself so eloquently about how much fun i have in my kitchen.

and then there were the recipes. they were all of them simple, elegant, and making the most of whatever fruit or veg might be in season (although he did demonstrate a love for fish and fennel that i could never get on board with). one of the reasons it took me so long to read this book was because i didn't want to read it away from my computer, where i would forget about all the gems i was unearthing. i wanted my recipe collection right in front of me, so that i could add each morsel as it came. i've already played with one of the recipes--a marmalade cake--and even though it wasn't perfect, it was still exactly what i wanted from 'diaries'--simple, relatively fast, with easy ingredients. i must have pulled between 30-50 recipes from the book, and the only thing that stopped me from pulling more was the fish factor. i even started pulling his two-line paragraphs about his formula for miso soup, or frittatas, or a ham and mushroom sandwich, just because the prose was so lovely it seemed to express more inspiration for such simple fare than i could ever muster.

and so, with this, i hope to step up my efforts to document my kitchen adventures, and my projects in general. i definitely need to work harder on my food photography (not just vis a vis slater, but after spending much of the week thus far browsing food blogs i am ashamed of my own efforts). and i hope to embrace the simplicity that nigel brought to his cooking. each day, he'd hunt for ingredients. he rarely planned ahead (although i don't fancy giving that up any time soon, as i get so much pleasure out of anticipating what i might cook) and took his time with everything. each day was a new challenge, even when he was just considering a salad for his own lunch. it was truly...delicious.

No comments: