“Cookbook titles tend towards the functional. It’s the food of this, or the book of that. And then there’s the best cookbook title of all time: by Simon Hopkinson, with Lindsey Bareham. The second half of that sentence is perfect, for all recipes are indeed a story. The ingredients are the beginning. The method is the middle. We all know the ending. The best of those stories promise a better life. And then there is roast chicken, one of those tales that people like me love being told time and again.”
When I read Jay Rayner’s recent discussion of trying recipes from Simon Hopkinson’s book, “How we all fell for Simon Hopkinson's lovely tale of roast chicken” (published in the Guardian on Feb. 14 and quoted above), I had to take a look at it — fortunately, a Kindle version is very, very inexpensive! Although the book was published in 1994, this was the first time I heard of it: not surprising! The number of cookbooks in this world, even very good ones, is astronomical.
As an example, here is what Hopkinson says about smoked haddock: “I look upon smoked haddock as being essentially British. There is something about its distinctive smoky, fishy odor when being cooked that is familiar and comforting. It’s fireside stuff, soft and buttery. Sunday evening food.” (p. 240) He gives three recipes for smoked haddock with potatoes, in an omelet, and in soup.
Another quote: “ I used to think that Italian cooking was just veal, pasta, and tomatoes. I thought spaghetti boring, veal a tasteless meat (usually pan-fried in soggy breadcrumbs), and all that was ever done to tomatoes was to turn them into insipid sauces.” Then he tasted the peppers at a particular London restaurant and all was different. (p. 189) Honestly, I tried to find more exciting quotes, but I just couldn't.
For one more example, here’s what he says about Elizabeth David: “ Elizabeth David has inspired me, and countless others, more than any other cookery writer. She had a style of prose that is a joy to read and, at times, the description of a dish or a situation experienced is so evocative that it transports the reader from page to place.” (p. 103)
Review © 2021 mae sander.