Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Platter of Figs

I rarely use cookbooks for a recipe, I only wish I were that kind of a cook, but they do feed me in a different way. I take note of spices, of combinations, of what ingredients are first toasted, mixed, set aside. I read through lists of ingredients, smelling or imagining the texture of each one. I put an apron in my mind and store the knowledge somewhere between my taste buds and pantry shelves. And then I look at the pictures. It's frivolous but it makes me happy. A Platter of Figs makes me happy.

The photography is delicious. I want to eat the light and the raw beauty of the food primarily unadorned is stunning. The menus are arranged by season which is another of my favorite parts of this book as that's the way we eat. When it's winter, our meals reflect it and I want to cultivate my instinct to make the best of that time. The author, a chef at Chez Panisse six months out of the year, encourages improvising and making the best out of what's available. He knows seasonal cooking.

My last favorite part of the book is that each menu begins with a vignette that provides a back drop to the recipes. The stories make the recipes personal, they prop the kitchen door open and invite the reader in. They're an invitation to notice the stories around the food in our own kitchens, where it came from, how it got there and to think about the people along the way.

And that's a good invitation to accept.

Do you have a favorite cookbook that inspires and makes you happy?


Going Crunchy said...

Yum! I'm putting in a list of titles to read from this blog today....a good cookbook will be one of them.

Gotta say I never got into figs though. Just too "figgy." I could do a good "carroty" recipe thought!

Green Bean said...

I love cookbooks like that! Field to Farm was a beautiful one. I love Deborah Madison's Local Flavors as well. Gotta have the beautiful photos that inspire me to give a recipe a shot.

Green Bean said...

Oh, and I'm with Shannon. I don't do figgy - despite the abundant figs adorning those very climbable trees in my parents' yard.

Anonymous said...

I love Deborah Madison's cookbooks.
Right now, one cookbook that I find myself browsing in has good pictures, is half travelogue, serves as an excellent launchpad for experimentation, and has (for those who may need them) really superb step by step instructions is The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen. Oh yeah, and I got my copy off a clearance table which makes it extra good.
Laurie Colwin's essays, originally published in Gourmet Magazine, are worth really worth reading if you like reading about cooking. They are published as Home Cooking and More Home Cooking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I just reserved it at the library. I'm jealous of people who have access to fresh figs. My dad wraps them in applewood smoked ham and I love them that way!

I too love Laurie Colwin's books. I also enjoy old books that talk about food but aren't necessarily cookbooks. I mentioned one in yesterday's comments. Another is "Pot Shots from a Grosse Ile Kitchen" 1947 by Lucy and Sidney Corbett.


Kale for Sale said...

going crunchy - I never liked figs until a couple of years ago, but now, now I can't get enough of them! I look forward to hearing what cookbook you come up with.

green bean - If I remember right the Field to Farm cookbook had the cute guy on the cover? That was a good one. - Somebody in your family must like figs with a tree in the yard. Or else the neighbors are damn lucky!

susanb - I know Deboarah Madison has such a good reputation and I'd love her but I've yet to peruse any of her cookbooks. I need to remedy that. And I love cookbooks or any books for that matter that are part travelogues. That's the best. With pictures of course.

diana - The figs and ham sounds fabulous. Of course figs are primarily out of season in my neck of the woods now but there's always next year. Thanks for more old book titles. I love it.