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„Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It’s about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assuring in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat. And in Cooking, as in writing, you must please yourself to please others. Strangely it can take enormous confidence to trust your own palate, follow your own instincts. With our habit, which itself is just trial and error, this can be harder than following the most elaborate of recipes. But it’s what works, what’s important.
But restaurant food and home food are not the same thing. Or, more accurately, eating in restaurants is not the same thing as eating at home. Which is not to say, of course, that you can’t borrow from restaurant menus and adapt their chef’s recipes – and I do.
I am not a chef. I am not even a trained or professional cook. My qualification is as an eater. I cook what I want to eat – within limits. I have a job – another job, that is, as an ordinary working journalist – and two children, one of whom was born during writing this book.
Much of this is touched upon throughout the book, but I want to make it clear, here and now, that you need to acquire your own individual sense of what food is about, rather than just a vast collection of recipes.”
Nigella Lawson in „How To Eat”
As announced we are dealing with domestic goddesses.
Today I like to talk about Nigella Lawson & her first two books* – only in English available:
For the record:
If you wonder why the volumes in my photo (which I took from the books in my kitchen library) & the current versions don’t look the same – well: I bought my copies years ago; today new editions are on the market.
I learnt about Nigella by watching TV; her cookery show appeared in Germany & was just spellbinding. What did I like most? Nigella cooked, Nigella ate (with family & friends), went to bed – suddenly she reappeared in the kitchen, opened her fridge & picked out the container w/ the remains of the dessert & indulged in the chocolate, the cream, the cake…
So I looked for some of her cookbooks – there is quite a range now – and started with „Leckerbissen“ (English: „Nigella Bites“). Soon I made my way to her basic oeuvres „How To eat“ & „How To Be A Domestic Goddess“. Especially her fist book seems to be a fresh approach to how to write a cookery book & I really liked reading in the volume…
However, let’s start w/ some facts:
Nigella Lawson (*1960) started as a journalist & restaurant critic after her Oxford studies. She is a self-educated cook & wrote her first book „How To Eat“ end of the 90s. Afterwards she started hosting her own TV cookery show. Her approach to cooking is 100% home cooking.
Her basic cookery books are:
- How To Eat
(published 1998 / about 540 pages w/o any photos / about 250 recipes (my estimation!))
- How To Be A Domestic Goddess
(published 2000 / about 380 pages w/ photos / about 150 recipes (also my estimation!))
What is new?
Let’s have a look at the contents of „How To Eat“:
- Basics etc. (about 80 pages including recipes!)
- Cooking In Advance
- One & Two
- Fast Food
- Weekend Lunch
- Low Fat (mainly Chinese, Indian, Southeast Asian)
- Feeding Babies & Small Children.
Nigella Lawson is at home & thinks alike: What to do for dinner? What to do when there isn’t a crowd of guests waiting for some lunch? What to do for your children? How to manage your kitchen?
„How To Eat“ is a book for reading – of course you’ll find a lot of recipes & there is a brilliant index at the end of the book. So if you look for – let’s say – „beef stroganoff“ or „béchamel sauce“ or whatever you’ll find a recipe, however, always imbedded in the chapter. It’s a real pleasure just to start reading – chapter by chapter (of course you can skip the details of some of the recipes… until you decide to try them!).
Her second book – the beautiful „How To Be A Domestic Goddess“ (Wow – what a title!) is like an addition. Here is the more conventional table of contents:
- Cookies, Scones, and Muffins
- Bread and Yeast
- The Domestic Goddess’s Pantry.
I don’t think any recipe in this book goes w/o some notes, some story, some tips… You’ll notice that she has her own agenda about how to deal with baking.
Why am I so fond of these books?
The recipes are mouthwatering – even if only reading. It’s the approach of a home cook to present easy-to-prepare dishes in justifiable time w/ down-to-earth equipment. At this moment in time Nigella Lawson was a home cook & I think that’s obvious in her books.
Although these books are about 20 years old now they are still up to date. They present a Nigella Lawson at the beginning of her career when she explored & defined her cookery roots. It isn’t a methodical start into home cooking compared the other cookbooks in my little series, but a very reliable volume focusing matters that home cooks can count on. So: don’t expect any sophisticated messing around w/ exotic ingredients…
Now… at the end let’s not forget all my domestic goddesses: