Monday, 23 August 2010

The Joy of Forgetfulness


You want to prepare food that is not too complicated and that will turn out successfully. And isn't this because you want to please the people you are cooking for?


Ginette Mathiot

I used to be a fairly keen cook. But recently, I realised that I've been cooking increasingly badly - as in repetitively and unimaginatively - as I got older; same old staples: soups, stews, pasta, omelettes, roasts. Looking in my old faithful cookery books, I could find nothing to inspire me, or their exotic signature dishes weren't to my taste, or I was defeated by the length of the ingredients lists.

I began to worry if I was going to turn into an old lady who ate little else but toast , salmon steaks and shepherd's pie.... My fridge is often zingy with colour, full of vegetables, salads, herbs and sometimes meat or chicken; I have a weekly order of superb free range eggs from a family friend, but I would often struggle to produce much that was interesting. Surely I could find dishes that captured the wonderful simplicity and depth of flavour that my mother and grandmother never failed to produce? Both were excellent cooks, yet nothing was 'cheffy' or overdressed; real home cooking, deceptively plain and unadorned, with good ingredients, and a great joy in feeding people, had been their trademarks. I have no memory of either of them ever consulting a cookery book.

At some point very recently, I seem to have done something about it. I ordered a book that, judging from its reviews, would recapture those dishes from childhood, would re-light the interest in food and cooking that had been fading dully for years. And then I forgot totally, utterly, that I had done so.

A parcel came today, and a very large heavy parcel at that. Mystified, I opened it, convinced that I had ordered nothing, that no one was likely to be sending me a gift (that's not a hint, by the way!) and found, to my jolted memory's delight, this 1932 classic Je Sais Cuisiner, now in English:


And it's a big fatty.


With lovely illustrations:






And tempting photographs. Dishes that take me back in time: cassoulet, potage bonne femme, apple fritters (oh, my mother's apple fritters!), stuffed cabbage (that my grandmother tied with stout cotton thread).....





and thankfully, a simple recipe for Swiss chard, becoming abundant on the allotment.

I'm pleased that I forgot about ordering this book; it was the nicest surprise on this cold rainy day.

So much to choose from, although I don't know where to start! Maybe by shopping.....



19 comments:

mountainear said...

As you say, fabulous illustrations. How interesting to see in your last picture a smoking greengrocer - there's a thing of the past.

I'm very tempted to do a little forgetful ordering myself - could do with a kick up the culinary backside.

Fran said...

Oh yes! Apple fritters! They sound amazing. Happy cooking. Have you seen the film 'Julia and Julia'? Sounds like your kind of film.

Susan said...

OMG !!! LOVE IT !!!!! am looking it up now on amazon.ca & the illustrations are indeed divine. Please keep us post(ed) on your culinary adventures avec recipes perhaps. xo S & les Gang

BumbleVee said...

hilarious illustrations .... lovely photos...the plump saussages would play merry hell with my stupid inherited high cholesterol ... and, I'd have to toss the bacon on the cabbage rolls...but, eh, .... what the heck, I always tweak recipes to suit myself anyway.

Check out my artichoke chicken recipe on my Tea and Scones blog for something tasty but simple enough.... I'm making it for supper tonight....

sometimes I think I get stuck in a rut too food wise... but, just check out some blogs, or ask somebody what to make for supper and you'll get lots of suggestions... and some great and easy recipes....

frayedattheedge said...

What a fabulous book!! I love cookery books - not necessarily to cook with - I just love reading recipes and looking at photos of food. Quite often I'll read a recipe then make my version (I do that with quilts as well!)

Hazel said...

What a lovely book! And all the better for those evocotive (?sp) memories.

I too am put off by an over-long list of ingredients and complexity - but I do love to cook & 'tweak' depending on what's in the fridge/at the plot at any one time. Nigel Slater rarely lets me down if I need a spark.

dinahmow said...

"...lovely illustrations..." Unsullied by the anti-tobacco lobby!
A gorgeous book,Rachel.

elizabethm said...

That is just exactly my kind of book, love the illustrations to bits! I also know just what you mean about dwindling into a boring cook. I find it happening to me and have to fight back! Sarah Raven's Kitchen Garden is truly inspiring for vegetable growers I love Nigel Slater for making me think of things that don't need a book, if you know what I mean!

BumbleVee said...

wow... talk about forgetfulness! I'm even further along than I thought on that score .... you were one of the 3 commenters on the chicken recipe...way back when...............sigh...................

it was a tasty supper.... even used my own herbs from my pot on my patio.... yum....

Bee said...

I've seen this book, but never had a peek inside. So, thank you . . .
I have a terrible (in a good way) weakness for cookbooks. I probably have a hundred of them, but only cook regularly from about five. The Observor did an entire magazine last weekend on favorite/best-ever cookbooks. I only had a few of them, so now I'm suffering from cookbook lust.

On the subject of cookbooks, have you ever been to Books for Cooks in Notting Hill? An entire bookstore devoted to cooks.

I always look forward to autumn because it gets me more revved up about cooking.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I love food and I love my stomach . And I especially love it when someone else cooks wonderful food for my stomach .
Finding the time and energy , during the week , to transform a couple of supermarket chops and some brocolli into a feast is another kettle of fish ! Perhaps I need this book too . I know I'd certainly like it !
Sonata .

Rattling On said...

I have this book, it's great!!

the veg artist said...

I saw this in a bookshop last week and was amazed by the size - heavy ideed. I love cookbooks, and have a birthday coming up, so maybe I will put it on my suggestions list!

Susan said...

oh and ...
on the joys of forgetfulness. I now can watch movies a second, third or fourth time all the while thinking ... this seems kinda, vaguely familiar.

Exmoorjane said...

Oh god, I LIVE on toast if Adrian isn't around. I'm a sucker for luscious photographs, I fear, rather than cool graphics and can't handle a thumper of a cookbook but have to say the pics are tempting.
loved your reply to my blog post.... made me remember that we had to do athletics in thick knickers and Aertex shirts (yup, no shorts or skirts, just knickers) - sadistic bastards!

judy in ky said...

You sent a gift to yourself! How lovely.

Sue said...

Looks good, the illustrations are amazing, I particularly like the last bloke with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Health and Safety, pah!

Penny said...

What a fabulous book! I love reading cookery books and this, with it's fabulous artwork looks really inspiring. Have fun and I look forward to photos of the results! Penny

Charlotte said...

Mmmmm cassolet, thats one of my absolute faves. My nan makes it lovely with loads of duck and every sausage under the sun. This book looks FAB x

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