10 May 2021

In the Kitchen: Essays on food and life - Various

"What's for dinner?" is bound to be asked by someone at work after 3 pm and usually that someone is  me.  Last week that particular question morphed into a conversation about condiments, specifically ketchup.  Our supervisor arrived at the meeting and offered her thoughts....she's not a fan.  At our house we go through it at a shocking rate but I blame lockdown and Friday night fish & chip suppers.  I digress.  At any rate, this charming collection of essays had me placing an order the moment I saw it.

A total of thirteen essays have been grouped into three categories: Coming to the Kitchen, Reading and Writing in the Kitchen, and Beyond the Kitchen, each flowing easily from one to the next.  As someone who finds the mention of a gas-ring in a story the height of kitchen drama pleasure, the first paragraph delightfully begins....

Gasfire cookers are not just heavy, they're awkward.  This one was a smooth, white box with nothing for us to hold onto except the sharp bottom edges.  It was an ordeal getting it up the stairs to our flat, our inability to cooperate exposed by a kitchen appliance.

In her essay A Life in Cookers Rachel Roddy writes about the many stoves that have occupied homes she has lived in.  A simple concept and yet utterly fascinating.  There was a even a moment in Rachel's history of stoves when my heart sank.  Her family moved from a home that had a red Aga into a new home with a Hotpoint.  Well, you just can't compare the two when it comes to character, can you.

Another essay that rated highly is Ella Risbridger's Cupboard Love about our level of intimacy based on how comfortable we are in someone's kitchen.  Knowing which cupboard door leads to the tea cups signals a relaxed visit with a close friend.  And they'll know how you like your tea without asking.

The stand-out essay because it felt tailormade for its subject matter is Brain Work by Laura Freeman, and now I have to track down a copy of her book The Reading Cure.  

Along the way I have become nosy about, if not downright obsessed by, what it is that writers eat.

Freeman goes on to share an entry from Barbara Pym's diary in which she notes drinks and a meal as she finished her novel Less Than Angels.  I can't remember the last time a cup of Nescafe crossed my path but it makes a comforting change from lengthy and comical Starbucks orders.  I laughed at Alan Bennett's petits fours of vitamins that accompany his healthy lunch, and was revolted by Lee Child's diet of cigarettes and coffee.  Thankfully the thought of a smoky lunch quickly wafted away with an entry from Virginia Woolf...

Words, words & now roast beef & apple tart....(30 October 1938)

Freeman then draws attention to Martin Amis's description of his writing day.  If he is lucky a cup of tea turns up.  The author ponders who is responsible for delivering these well-timed cups of tea as if by magic?  And better still, were female authors presented with cups of tea when they needed a lift or were they left to make their own. 

Shopping, preparing and enjoying food is universal and I've enjoyed expanding my food repertoire into other cultures.  Yemisi Aribisala's essay points out the differences food culture can create in relationships when the will to reach beyond your norm is weak at best.  In love with a young white man of British heritage, their ideas around entertaining were extreme opposites.  His parents were mortified that she would help herself to half a quiche in their fridge that was meant for lunch.  He was angry when her friend tucked half a loaf of bread from their kitchen, under her arm to take home.  Nigerians, as Yemisi tells him, would never insult their guests by imposing limits on guest lists or food.  Their relationship was doomed.

Daisy Johnson's essay Ritial about making pizza with family gathered in the kitchen on Christmas Eve was the reason we had pizza for lunch last Friday.

A lovely collection that pleased beyond my expectation and for anyone interested in a bookish gift for a friend, look no further.  

12 comments:

  1. This sounds wonderful! And I see there is a new book in the same vein, 'In the Garden'. Bliss!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid a purchase of the garden collection is inevitable, Sandra! I might have to clear some space on a bookshelf if Daunt Books publishes more titles along this line.

      Delete
  2. Oh this looks like a great read, although at the moment we're struggling through consuming a fruit and veg box we accidentally ordered in medium when we should have chosen small so our life revolves around shoving it into various recipes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! Roast the veggies, add stock and blend into soup for the freezer? My husband and I are on holiday this week so we're not eating the bunch of bananas on the counter...banana bread tomorrow!
      And yes, this edition was so good I've ordered two more in the series: In the Garden and At the Pond.

      Delete
  3. So happy to hear how much you enjoyed this! I am keeping a keen eye out for it but no luck so far. I thoroughly enjoyed At the Pond in this series and look forward to tracking down this and especially In the Garden soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For readers like us this series feels custom-made, doesn't it! I've ordered the next two so I'm very happy you enjoyed 'At the Pond', Claire. Swimming in a pond, lovely as it is, is something I would much rather read about than do. Looking forward it!

      Delete
  4. Oh gosh, I've GOT to get this. Thanks for leading me further into my fate of drowning in books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. A search just now on "In the Kitchen" at Book City's website reveals many many titles with another word in front, like Women... Clueless... Science... Kid...

      Delete
    2. Hi Susan! Kitchen stories are pretty popular...I use The Book Depository for British titles that Chapters doesn't have available yet, if that helps.
      I know how you feel because I've been on a bit of book binge lately...five ordered this past week. I could use a fresh supply of t-shirts but at least with books I know they'll fit. All the best!

      Delete
    3. There. I just ordered it from Book Depository, after messing with Amazon.ca and finally deciding I never want to deal with them again. (It was always a last ditch option anyway).

      Delete
    4. Wonderful, Susan! I've used this site for almost a decade. Now prepare yourself....Amazon bought The Book Depository several years ago but kept the original name. The prices are higher under Amazon, especially the pre-order price for upcoming items but sometimes I just can't wait for a British title to reach our shops here in Canada. I hope you enjoy your book once it arrives!

      Delete
    5. Oh bother.

      Yes, I saw it was cheaper at BD, but Amazon went ahead and processed the order while I was still just looking, I thought. (Partly my fault, I forgot to remove my Credit Card after the last purchase, which I always do.)And there is NO way of contacting them. Nada. None.

      Delete