Stories of pretend meals

The book sits there, tantalising me to open it and sample its offerings.  Promises of elegant and exquisite tastes, of hearty winter foods or simple summer platters lie ahead. In the end, I give in, and buy yet another book of mostly to be unmade recipes.

Why? Because I am one of those people who read a cookery book like a novel.  Some are structured by season, some by types of food, some by courses, some alphabetically, all bring different pleasures in different ways.  It isn’t always about the recipes, it is often about the stories contained within. Here are a few more recent purchases.

1. My latest purchase is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Swedish Kitchen. There are a couple of things that I like to make from her book The Little Paris Kitchen, so I thought this might be fun too. It’s a nice read, taking us through the seasons in Sweden, though am not sure about all her updating of Swedish classics (carrots in Janssons  Frestelse!!!).

2.  The other ‘Scandinavian’ book I purchased a while back was Scandikitchen’s Summer, which makes nice reading since it is still winter here obviously.  Will I ever cook from it?  Ask me in January!

Scandikitchen Summer and The Little Swedish Kitchen, yet we know I will turn to Nya Annas Mat when I want to make Sjömansbiff

3.  This year I also purchased Ren Behan’s Wild Honey and Rye, chiefly because it is a book of Polish recipes for the modern home cook, and the only Polish cook book I have is a very American one from the 1980s.  Again, this is a lovely book to read, and one day I may get around to making pierogi.

4.  A couple of years back, I made a decision to try and make lots more preserves and pickles.  I did do a couple of things, but not nearly as many as I had hoped, and it’s been a while since I made anything like that.  To inspire me to get going, I picked up Kirsten Day’s In a Jam, her companion piece to In a Pickle, from which I made some great pickled cherries.  As she is a New Zealand writer, the ingredients are at least possible to source as well.  Again, this is a lovely read, and I love to imagine myself spending an afternoon making some exotic curd or jam.

Will I ever make…….

5.  I had Julia Turshen’s Small Victories on my wish list for a while before I managed to get hold of a copy.  It has become a firm favourite, for easy to do ideas, and ways of brightening up basics like salmon.  I’m going to return to this book in a later post as it has proved so inspiring in the kitchen.

6.  If you haven’t seen Gaz Oakley on You Tube, I suggest you check him out.  His vegan take on fish and chips is quite something.  I see this book as a reference and inspiration, and used one of his cake recipes in my month of vegan baking.

A new favourite on the left, and a useful addition on the right

7.  How to Eat a Peach, what a perfect name for a book about food.  A book laid out by seasons and built around menus, it is such a good read, and full of pretend meals that I imagine making. However, I have made the rhubarb, marmalade and rosemary cake, which was so delicious and one to make again, so perhaps I will make more from this utterly delightful book.

One for bedtime reading

What are your favourite cook books?  Are they ones covered in splashes, with pages falling out, or are they ones you just like to read?

Title from this wonderful piece by Bea Wilson in the New Yorker from 2013.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on


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