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Friday, January 01, 2021

Kitchen for the Holidays

From the Food Vault Dept.: One of the joys of skidding into the year’s end was diving into the cookbooks that crossed my desk. Being no fan of televised cookery, I avoided the celebrity-driven titles, although, as you’ll note below, I wasn’t immune to the lure of such celebrity chefs as Ferran Adrià (whose elBulli restaurant closed in 2011) and Heston Blumenthal (whose Fat Duck restaurant continues to operate west of London). Here is the roundup I wrote in 2008.


COOKING AND COOKBOOK READING are separate activities in my house, and I’m a devotee of both. Where others plunk themselves in front of the cacophonous Food Network, I prefer to enrich my culinary ambitions with the quiet majesty of the page. Then I photocopy the recipes that intrigue me so that the books themselves remain as pristine as possible.

Shopping from my list, therefore, puts you in no danger of presenting a loved one with some overhyped celebrity-driven screed. The celebrities we’ll meet are the chefs themselves, generally as insane as any A-list actor or music star, but at least proffering actual nourishment.

Heston Blumenthal, for example, injected one of his sous chefs with hot pepper essence and studied a brain scan of the result in order to pinpoint where the hotness hits. Dedicated? Insane? You might as well ask the same of Van Gogh or Beethoven. Blumenthal’s The Big Fat Duck Cookbook (Bloomsbury, $250, celebrates the intricately creative fare at his Berkshire, England restaurant, a perennial Michelin three-star winner. Not surprisingly, this big fat book is to cookbooks as a Blumenthal entrée is to more standard fare: unpredictable and gorgeous, with a spectacular design by artist Dave McKean.