I say for summer, but maybe they’re for anytime. It’s just now, when the long light evenings prefer books to screens, and the veg harvest is beginning to peak, that I’ve pulled them from the kitchen shelf again. And keep them by my side of the bed. Dreaming of burrata salad. Waking to the idea of freshly baked Maslen bread.
Why these three books? I love them equally. And read them for slightly different reasons.
A Year at Otter Farm by Mark Diacono : I read for my garden
And for my veg box. The seasonal focus encourages me to be expectant throughout the year; the content changes, but the earth still provides. I wrote a few years ago about how I read this book “like a child reads fairytales”. And while our courgettes have failed for the third year in a row (*sigh*), the gap between dream and reality has shrunk a little each year as we’ve got our hands in the dirt and pulled sustenance from it.
Gather by Gill Meller : I read for the landscapes
Meller (of River Cottage fame) brings not only a seasonal focus, but also a spatial one, arranging his book around landscapes. The moor, the harbour, the field. Reading it connects me to the world beyond this cityscape, encourages me to get out there, makes me think of learning to forage (properly, with an expert, because the risks of getting it wrong seem…not worth it). It makes me feel adventurous. I’m not sure I’ll ever try the squirrel* recipes, but I suppose it’s interesting to know I could.
Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger : I read for myself
I have read every recipe in this beautifully illustrated book at least twice in the handful of months since I bought it. Some three, four, even five times. Because every recipe is a story, and every story is a hug. A compass arrow pointing firm to the idea that cooking is part of living, and living is worth doing. Risbridger encourages interaction – writing in the margins, sauce splatters down the page. This is my kind of hearty, extra glug of olive oil cooking. This is food that makes you want to stay home, to live, to feast.
* Meller argues that squirrel is one of the most sustainable sources of meat we could eat in the UK. Apparently you can order it online. I recognise my cultural squeamishness, but I think I’ll probably opt for a veggie option instead. For now anyway.