Books worth tucking into

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Relish: My Life On A Plate by Prue Leith (Quercus, R194):

Prue Leith has a special connection with SA and this city where her cookery school has become better recognised than most in the country. Every once in a while, she pays us a visit even if her interest has turned to writing.

When you read her book, you discover that food has never been the huge thing in her life. It made her famous, but its the stuff surrounding the food that got her going.

What got Prue excited was more than the food, it was the event, the people, and the magic of spotting how to do things right and pulling it off.

That, and her personal life.

Though she is from SA, she has become one of the British Isle’s most famous foodies. I suspect it has a lot to do with her matter-of-fact personality, the way she acclimatised and her no-nonsense approach to life. Who would have thought that someone so up-front could lead the life she did – in secrecy – for so long.

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You won’t learn that much about her cooking, but everything about what was cooking in her life. This time she’s spilt all the beans.

The Flavour Thesaurus: Pairings, recipes and ideas for the creative cook by Niki Segnit (Bloomsbury, R320.95)

A friend was given this book as a gift and I got stuck into it. The author says she didn’t realise her dependence on cookery books until she saw her fingernail marks running below the recipes in her Elizabeth David French Provincial Cooking. She felt she should have been well versed in the basics to let go and trust her instincts, but she wasn’t.

Her mother, an excellent cook, has only two recipe books and clippings, but rarely consults them.

She suspected that her wealth of recipe books was the cause of her lack of confidence in the kitchen.

While thinking about this, she was served a dish by a friend who combined two ingredients that would not have featured on her menu.

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She wondered how the cook knew the two flavours would match and resolved to better understand the links between flavours – hence the book.

It’s a fascinating study that can be read for amusement or, like the author suggests, to help change your style and and boost confidence when it comes to cuisine.

Al Dente: Madness, Beauty and Food of Rome by David Winner (Simon and Schuster, R240)

This one takes some getting used to perhaps because the title implies that it will have a specific food slant, but once you get over that, it’s a fascinating read because Italy has such a rich history.

The author was struck by the Italian attitude to food, a unique relationship between sustenance and existence, and started delving into their history.

From the oldest ice cream shop to the king of tiramisu to the holiness of wafer bakery used in religious ceremonies and the enormous role of food in the lives of Italy’s grand film-makers; from tomato sauce to fish markets, pasta and macaroni, the fig and the anchovy, all are given space to shine.


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