Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The Kitchen Shelf
The things that I love are the preparation and consumption of food and books. I think that they represent both sides of my family; my beloved and sainted mother remains one of the finest household cooks that I have ever known. She grew up in a house with a mother who was a Swiss trained cook and who cooked in aristocratic English homes in the late nineteenth century.
My dear and much missed father, on the other hand, had trouble boiling water for his own tea, but he was well educated and the best read person that I have ever met. I grew up in a home with 10,000 volumes covering the walls, ranging in content from the classics of great literature and historical tomes to the hundreds of murder mysteries and local color novels spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We had leather-bound editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica dating from 1885 and 1968.
And cook books.
My mother had shelves of beautiful cookbooks. Magical tomes filled with arcane formulae that were paths to joy and wonder. Ways to clean and cure snails and make soufflés that were light as clouds. Books in English and in French and handwritten books filled with notes made by her mother and grandmother before her were on those shelves, and they were treasured before all others. Whatever I wanted to eat, no matter what the cuisine or the level of skill and knowledge required, I needed only request it of my mother, and it would be done.
One could travel the world through those shelves. My father's books of the world and of history and my mother's books on cooking were a means by which I could go anywhere and anywhen. Those shelves are no longer available to me, but I have tried to rebuild them to a small extent in my home and my heart. I am still looking for a 1920s edition of Ali-Bab's Gastronomie Pratique, the book from which I learned my limited French.
Whilst I am tracking that volume down, I hope that you will come and journey with me through some wonderful books on food. I will do lots of cookbook reviews, but it will not stop there. This blog is devoted to all sorts of books on food: Cookbooks of every sort, old and new, books on food science and technique, fiction with strong foodie appeal and foodie movies too. We will read and review books and test recipes report back to you on the best and the brightest. And we will get some authors of great new cookbooks to guest blog too!