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Showing posts from May 24, 2020

Cookbooks 7: Stephanie Alexander

7. Stephanie Alexander. Until recently Stephanie lived down the street from my mother. We all used to walk past Stephanie’s place very often. Unlike other front gardens in Hawthorn, with their demonstrations of jonquils, pittosporum pile-ups, and dense lavender hedges, her garden sported splendid specimens of broccoli, cauliflower, or pumpkin in raised ornate rows. We would drool from the other side of the wrought-iron gate. Furthermore, the vegetables were picture perfect, like some graphic from a New Yorker cover. Every leaf curled with designer exactitude. This infuriating achievement stood as mockery of my own vegetable patches, with their straggles of tomatoes, unpruned plumtrees and wayward broad bean bonanzas. Inspirational though, like the sight of Stephanie’s profuse allotments behind the fences of Collingwood Secondary College as I waited for the lights to change or the buses to move in peak hour traffic down Hoddle Street, pre-pandemic. Carol and Bridie gave me this bo

Cookbooks 6: Madhur Jaffrey

6. Madhur Jaffrey. The pages of this book are wrinkled from splatter and speckled from spice. This week I prepared Makkhani murghi (Chicken in Butter Sauce), so that page 92 now has extra wrinkle and speckle. I’ve tried most of the recipes in this book. Seb, Shannon and family gave me the book for Christmas in 2007. With Indian cooking you have to start somewhere, so why not here? Madhur Jaffrey went to England in the Fifties to study acting, but it was her experience of terrible English food and poor-quality Indian restaurants that compelled her to write home for real recipes. These she started promoting, the genuine article, and the rest is history. Freshness, simplicity, richness. She explains how Indian has no strict rules. Variation of texture and colour at the table, that’s important. Variety of flavours, wet and dry both, please. At the table we may dip into dips, use knife and fork, dunk and mop, but are advised “most Indians like to eat with their hands,” more exactly the

Cookbooks 5: Leslie Forbes

5.      Leslie Forbes. Many cookbooks are artistically produced, text and illustrations working together for cohesive effect. Some cookbooks are artbooks, where illustration can sometimes overwhelm the first priority of sharing recipes. Then there are cookbooks by the Canadian Leslie Forbes (1953-2016), i.e. my standout example of a design artist who joins recipe and illustration into a book that is an entire sensual experience all its own. I think these two titles were purchased at The Terrace Bookshop in Rathdowne Street in the late eighties; neither have been in print for nearly thirty years. You can get them for a steal on Abebooks. Pencil, pen, and ink draw together word and image into one coordinated tribute to Provence and Tuscany, places famed for their food and drink, all of it within striking distance of England. Forbes describes ‘A Table in Tuscany’ (1985) as “more a sketchbook that grew than a traditional cookbook,” and that’s why I return to her cookbooks. Although

Cookbooks 4: Moosewood

4.      The Moosewood Collective of Ithaca NY. Mollie Katzen’s original Moosewood Cookbooks (1974 and 1977) are classics both of vegetarian and American cuisine, with their hippie happiness, ashram commune stews, and handwritten pages. My copies are written over in my own hand with changes to ingredients and levels. Her departure from the Moosewood Restaurant brought into play the collective composition, i.e. anonymous, of all subsequent titles under that name. We have several, but ‘Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant’ (1990) is our favourite. The book is divided into ethnic and regional cuisines, the outcome of their practice of testing new vegetarian dishes each Sunday at the restaurant. It is a product of the expanding adventure of Moosewood, though signs of its heyday are everywhere, for example, the weights and measures section is titled ‘What we mean when we say, “One medium onion…”’ The answer to that is one cup of onion, diced. Recipe. To make Oden (Japanese winter stew)