The Edit

posted on: Tuesday, 11 March 2014

I choose the Agrarian Kitchen cookbook

Reading Ruth Reichl, again

Another must-read: Tender at the Bone

Many people get introduced to the world of food through cooking, but I came to it through reading. As a teenager my cooking skills were nil and while I infamously asked my brother how to boil water, I was up with Chez Panisse and the seasonal food movement in Berkeley (thanks Alice Waters) and even though I wouldn't travel to Italy until a decade later I knew the cool place to drink your aperitif in Florence was never inside a bar, but sitting on the wall that lines the Arno (Vogue magazine), though sometimes my reading did lead me astray as I was desperate to try dubious American foodstuffs such as Twinkies, Oreos and Reese's Buttercups (I'll credit that to The Babysitter's Club and Judy Blume). In a bookstore over the weekend the shelves were groaning under all the cookbooks and food memoirs available. But while it's tempting to check out every new cookbook on the market, I always go back to these three essentials.

Ruth Reichl is my favourite writer full stop. I read Garlic and Sapphires about her time as the Restaurant Critic for the New York Times first. She caused a stir elevating street food options like Korean BBQ into the best of lists, and as people wisened up to who she was, started wearing numerous disguises to go undercover. But, I like her books about her life before she became famous. In Comfort Me With Apples and Tender at the Bone she talks about how she came to a love of food through necessity, guarding visitors from eating dishes served by her intellectual mother who was very uninterested in use by dates. One night her mother decided she was taking her out of school in New York City and sending her to a French boarding school in Quebec. Her recollections about the hell of been thrown into a foreign language school were slightly softened by being introduced to feather light French eclairs by a friend's gourmand father.

I will admit to being a newspaper snob and after the delights of the UK papers, there is only one newspaper section I race to read each week. The A-Plus section in The Australian's Saturday paper is unparalleled in their food coverage. In particular, every time I read an article - about an amazing new sourdough baker in Mornington Peninsula, small batch chocolate in Western Australia, kitchen gardens in Daylesford - and think I must check who wrote that, it's always Necia Wilden. Her newspaper colleague John Lethlean has also written the best restaurant review I've seen for awhile: a slam on Hatch & Co at Brisbane's Gasworks.

Cookbooks. With roughly 97,345 options available at every bookstore, it's hard to find the gems amongst the mass. One that has caught my eye in the last year is The Agrarian Kitchen's. This cookbook is based on The Agrarian Kitchen cooking school that is 40 minutes from Hobart and includes sumptuous visual and relaxed seasonal recipes. Even though the school has been highly successful for many years, I love that they have just brought out one exceptional cookbook in that time rather than overloading material into a crowded market.

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