In this day and age, a cookery book almost seems like a relic, a thing of the past. But should that be the case?
I’ve collected many cookery books over the years, and I bet you have too. When you scan the titles in your bookcase, do they remind you of the various fads, obsessions, crazy diets, and food preferences that you’ve gone through? Mine do. I still have a few books that I turn to often, but only a very few. If I find a book that has even five dishes that I want to make more than once, I consider it a winner.
The internet has changed the world of recipes, of course. Most often, we probably google for a recipe, rather than spend the time to flip through multiple cookery books. Imagine how long it would take otherwise to find a recipe that made use of broccoli, matcha powder, and flaxseed!
But not every cookery book deserves to sit and gather dust, and I recently came across one that really earns its space on the bookshelf: “A Modern Way to Eat” by Anna Jones.
For several years, Anna Jones worked for chef Jamie Oliver in England as a food stylist and writer before branching out on her own. “A Modern Way to Eat” was her first book; her second, called “A Modern Way to Cook,” was recently released in the US.
“A Modern Way to Eat” isn’t a coffee table cookery book stacked with full page color photos, although it does have plenty of beautiful images. Nor is it a nut-roast-and-hemp type of vegetarian cookery book, although the recipes are all vegetarian. Instead, we have a sophisticated yet down-to-earth, thoughtfully assembled modern cookery book. The sophistication stems from the care that she takes with each dish to maximize its flavor, and the drive to make each dish more interesting by layering textures. The book gives completely straightforward instructions, which I appreciate. For instance, a recipe for Celeriac soup with hazelnuts and crispy sage (yum!) states “peel your celeriac thickly to get rid of any green tinges around the edge.” I like that attention to a fundamental detail. She also considers the balance of sustainability with affordability.
The British author shows both weights and measures in her recipes so you can use whichever you like better, weighing scales or cups.
Like many others, this book is organized loosely into breakfasts, snacks, soups, salads, lunches, hearty dinners, desserts, etc. There’s no end of really appealing recipes. (The book has 200 recipes, and I’ve tagged dozens of them to use in future meal plans.) What is so interesting and valuable to me about “A Modern Way to Eat” is that it actually educates us. The book goes beyond how to make an individual dish; it teaches something about the process of creating a recipe.
Early in the book, Anna includes a guide to how she puts together a recipe, a flowchart of sorts. The chart shows the eight categories that she considers when pondering a recipe. The first category is for what she calls the “hero” ingredient (the main ingredient of the dish). The other categories include the cooking method, ingredients and flavors that will support and accent the main ingredient, and then herbs, crunch, and seasoning. For each category, she includes examples of the options she might use. For instance, as options in the “Add some crunch” category, she shows croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, almonds, and pistachios. You can easily substitute your own favorite crunchy ingredient, but it’s good to get some ideas.
She uses this same logical approach in several of the book’s sections, although the categories are different. It’s so interesting to see the considerations and options for each category laid out in such a straightforward way. Using the chart as a guide, making the decisions for each category doesn’t seem overwhelming or complicated. I’m sure that gifted cooks make the same decisions intuitively, but the rest of us can appreciate the help that Anna Jones has given us by translating that intuitive process into a template for us to follow.
And when the time comes to worry about those holiday dinners you’ll host, there’s also a great guide to making a big roasted (vegetable) dinner, complete with detailed timeline that includes 15 minutes of relaxation before the potatoes come out of the oven!
I might have found similar information on the internet…but I doubt it. This book is a definitely a keeper.
Do you have a favorite cookery book that you turn to time and time again? Let us know!
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