I know for a fact that more than a few of my readers are quite fond of thumbing through cookbooks. If this applies to you then you might be interested to know that Adelaide’s Wakefield Press is the Australian distributor for Serif, a small, independent, London-based publisher. Serif publishes a very satisfying range of cookbooks that are just that little bit out of the ordinary in that, rather than being new releases, these books are considered to be classics in their genre and I have had my nose in a few of them over the last week.
I struggle to select favourites when it comes to cookbooks, especially when choosing from among classics, but Edouard de Pomiane’s book “Cooking with Pomiane” is one that I will not grow tired of. Born in Paris, de Pomiane was the son of Polish emigrants who moved to France in 1863 and took out French citizenship. He was born in 1875 and became a food scientist and academic at Institut Pasteur in Paris, a radio broadcaster and food writer. “Cooking with Pomiane” was first published in French in 1939, with the English translation published in 1948.
Possessed of a splendid moustache and highly esteemed by the likes of Elizabeth David, Edouard de Pomiane’s food writing was valued for it’s fresh approach as he encouraged his readers to free themselves from the restraints of the fashionable, but heavy, haute cuisine of the day and urged them to be confident in whatever they presented on their tables. His style is warm and gently encouraging as he clearly explains away a great many of the mysteries that surround culinary processes. He was also one of the first food writers to point out the health benefits of a less complicated, more balanced diet. His recipes are straightforward, if occasionally unusual – he has several versions of ancient Roman dishes – generally using fresh, simple ingredients and he is not averse to providing the odd short-cut. Indeed, he is particularly noted for his book “Cooking in 10 Minutes”, which was listed earlier this year as one of “The Observers” top 50 cookbooks ever, and is also available in this series. This is a delightful book to have a wander through and one that has not dated at all so, if you are interested in the real classics, this is one you need on your shelves.
Speaking of ancient Roman recipes leads me to another interesting title in this series, “Roman Cookery – Ancient recipes for Modern Kitchens” by Mark Grant. Grant is a classics teacher and has translated works by several ancient authors. What started some years ago as a slightly unusual fundraising dinner for a benevolent society, has turned into a passion for him and led to this book which was first published in 1999. The ancient Romans had a few condiments that were used as the basis of many their dishes, but are not common today, including a fermented fish guts sauce that sounds particularly challenging. Fortunately, Grant has revised this and other sauces to make them totally acceptable to modern cooks. The recipes are simple, but interesting, accessible and will be of interest to anyone who likes a dollop of history with their cooking.
One of the very first modern books written about Moroccan cooking, “Traditional Moroccan Cooking” by Madame Guinaudeau comes with a foreword by Claudia Roden, which is all I need to know to verify it’s value on the subject. The wife of a French doctor, Madam Guinaudeau moved to Fez in 1929 and lived there for over 30 years, delighting in discovering and researching the culinary traditions of all levels of Moroccan society. Her goal was to document and fix the cooking traditions of Fez before they became transformed by too much contact with Western cultures and she shares her enthusiasm for both the people and their food. My only issue with the recipes in this book is that they seem to be very light in the use of spices. Many of the recipes for ten people use only pinches of the various spices and “pieces” of a cinnamon stick – my inclination is to use much more, but maybe that is just me. Oh – and the recipe she gives for El Majoun, a sweet, spicy mix of honey, nuts, raisins and hashish doesn’t specify just how much hashish to use! This book was first published in French in 1958, then translated in 1964, and she went on to publish a much larger book on the cooking of regional Morocco in 1981.
Other books in the Serif series include “Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals” by Chitrita Banerji, “Cooking in 10 Minutes” By Edouard de Pomiane and “Classic Jamaican Cooking: Traditional Recipes and Herbal Remedies” by Caroline Sullivan.[mc4wp_form id="16750"]