Over the years I have collected a lot of cookbooks, it’s really interesting to see how my outlook on health has dictated the books I’ve bought. I only really started to get serious about cooking in the last few years, I mean I have always enjoyed it, but now I have started to look at different ways to eat, for instance, I use to buy a cookbook because the recipes looked amazing and it gave me the inspiration to get in the kitchen, nowadays I buy a book because its contents are predominantly about eating for health, of course the food styling and photography is still a big factor, I mean we need to be inspired to eat healthy, we need to have simple healthy food that looks amazing and isn’t beyond our capabilities as home cooks to achieve what we see in the recipe photo.
I’m a perfectionist, for years I thought that perfectionism was something only for the experts achieved, I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to make every meal look and taste awesome, it’s a great thing to strive for, but boy does it cause a lot of heartaches. I have come to the realisation that I will never achieve perfection, I can get kind of close, but it’s impossible to create something perfect, especially in cooking. A few years back I worked on a book project called Lunch in Provence with my wife, we photographed and worked alongside some Michelin star chefs in Provence, photographing and tasting the dishes every day, this gave me a huge appreciation for the work they do, it also gave me a very high standard of expectation when I would either dine out or try and cook for myself. I guess when you eat amazing food daily and are around top chefs, you develop a palate, an understanding of what food is supposed to taste like, and when you go from sitting down at a 3 star Michelin restaurant to a local pub meal, you’re going to be disappointed, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a food snob, actually that’s a lie, I am a food snob, I do expect high standards, at home and especially when we dine out, when you work hard to make home cook meals tasty and beautiful to look at, and then you go out with your family for a meal and the food is terrible, you feel robbed and disappointed.
Recently we were working away for the weekend, I prepared some food to take with us so when we arrived we had a healthy meal to eat (instead of roadside food). The photo shoot went later than expected the following day, so we decided to go to a restaurant before the long drive home, this way we were all fed and wouldn’t have to worry about roadside food again. We had a quick look around for a decent place to eat and settled down for a nice meal, the place looked professional, cozy and the menu looked pretty good, we were all so hungry and excited to eat.
I would honestly say this was the worst meal I’ve ever had, it was so greasy, my steak was raw, (I asked for medium rare) the sauce they used on the steak looked like it had been sitting on the steak for a few weeks, it was horrendous, my daughter and wife ate a mouthful of their meals and we all decided to leave, I made a comment to the waitress that the meal was terrible, but she kind of laughed and shrugged it off. I was in no mood to start demanding my money back, so we left, but whilst I paid, I noticed the chef taking a pot off the top of the cooker and pouring oil onto the hot plate ready to fry something, I was shocked, but not surprised, re using cooking oil to save money, everything they served looked reheated and far from fresh, and they obviously fried in old vegetable oil (evidence I’m a food snob). But on a serious note, everybody in this world has the right to have access to a healthy meal, I’m not expecting Michelin star food on every corner, but the standard of basic restaurant food, in my opinion, is well below what we deserve.
Anyway, that’s just my opinion and my issues, and my rant over, so I guess I should talk about the great inspiration and amazing cook books that are on the market and on my shelves.
I have a lot of cookbooks, some are packed away, on loan or on other shelves in the house, so I should probably do a review on one that I’m cooking from at the moment.
SIX SEASONS – A new way with vegetables – Joshua Macfadden with Martha Holmberg
This is an awesome book, I like to eat a wide variety of food combinations, meat free days, lots of fish, vegetables, so eating vegetarian meals during the week helps me get a lot of varied nutrients and minerals into my diet, so when I saw this book on vegetables I had to add it to my collection. If you haven’t heard of Joshua Macfadden, he is an American chef who has worked at some of the best restaurants in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, like Blue Hill, Momofuku, and Franny’s in Brooklyn to name a few. As described by Alice Walters, he has the soul of a farmer, and his recipes are beautifully in tune with the seasons and the land.
As the title of the book states, Joshua breaks the book into seasons, and covers a fantastic array of recipes with the types of produce available, he gives great tips on seasoning food, a breakdown on his larder, and throughout the book the recipes are beautifully photographed and the recipe descriptions are on point, easy to execute without over complicating the method. I love the way the book is in seasons, as I am based in New Zealand and currently in winter, I just go to this section and I can start cooking without having to source out of season vegetables for the recipe. Of course we live in a world where we can get most vegetables out of season, but I’m not really a fan of doing this due to supporting local farmers and trying to eat seasonally, but you don’t have to stick to just one section, you can pick and choose from the many delicious and healthy recipes he has chosen.
The flavours and combinations are excellent and you learn as you go, I’m slowly working through the winter section, and when I return from my vacation, will be looking forward to starting on Spring.
Another great addition to the book is the description of the vegetables he uses in the recipes, you get to learn something about the produce, which variety to use, tips on using the whole vegetable, this is a biggie as we throw away things like carrot tops, broccoli stalks etc, he also gives you pairing tips, and when to buy for the best flavours.
I can’t speak highly enough about this book, it’s an absolute must if you love cooking vegetables or eating within the seasons, he really has created a cracking cookbook.