For my #3 pick of Top 10 Most Favorite Coookbooks I’ve actually picked two titles from the same author (is that fair?): a new-classic and its equally witty follow-up from a noted English chef and writer:
3. ROAST CHICKEN AND OTHER STORIES and A SECOND HELPING OF ROAST CHICKEN by Simon Hopkinson.
Now, I chose these two cookbooks as much for the storytelling as the recipes, because Hopkinson is one of those rare examples of a famous chef who can cook as well as he can write. Each of his chapters is devoted to a favorite ingredient—everyday ones like lemon, lettuce, leeks; as well as some you may consider a bit Brit, like kidneys and hake—and introduced with a story from possibly his childhood or restaurant cooking days. Not only do you learn how to make an amazing chicken curry, but you also learn about the neighbor who taught him how to make it. This cookbook style—combining recipes with personal anecdotes so that the story behind the dish becomes just as memorable as the recipe-itself—is something that has been done famously before by great food writers like M.K. Fisher, but then I think kind of disappeared with the whole 30-minute-Faster Pussy Cat! Faster!—cooking trend, where getting to the point took the place of enjoying the journey. But happily, I think that many great writers-cooks are returning to this genre of food storytelling (I just got an early copy of Melissa Clark’s upcoming book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite and it’s a perfect mixture of advice, story and terrific family recipes like garlic and thyme-roasted chicken with crispy drippings croutons).
When a great and funny cook like Hopkinson shares their day-to-day tales and personal history, it makes real cooking seem all the more real, and inspires me to also open up my mind and heart to the possibilities in the kitchen. And maybe even try making that kidney pie recipe.