You know that a book is a wonder when you stomp around the house muttering ‘I should have written this’. The wonderful new cookbook by Kate Young The little library cookbook really is one such SATHM (stomp around the house muttering) book.
Fiction and food are one of life’s irresistible combinations, and ‘literary’ cookbooks have always been a weakness of mine. I’m thinking of Cherry cake and ginger beer, The unofficial Harry Potter cookbook, and Dinner With Mr Darcy, the list goes on. However, there is something particularly appealing about Kate Young’s contribution to this unique foodie genre. Not only are the recipes seriously good- (if a cookbook contains a bread recipe that enables me to produce a loaf of crusty goodness rather than a forlorn looking dough worthy of papier mache, then I know that the cook knows their stuff), but also, the narrative is simply gorgeous. Young takes us on not only a culinary and literary journey, but also an engagingly personal one that had me wanting to reminisce, cook and read simultaneously.
Young includes the essential recipes that any respectable ‘library cookbook’ should have (I am of course thinking of Proust’s madeleine in particular here), but she also includes recipes from books that are simply dear to her heart. These include crab and avocado salad from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, chicken casserole from Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, and gin martini and chicken sandwich from JD Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.
Young is not limited in her literary taste either, with ‘hunny’ and rosemary cakes’ worthy of Winnie the Pooh getting a deserved mention, and even vanilla layer cake as Anne of Green Gables originally intended getting its full due.
This was perhaps what I loved best about this gorgeous book — the lovely surprises when I turned page after page to also see one of my own beloved authors getting their recipe out there, such as mince pies from Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum, curried chicken from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Homes, and eclairs from Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. Young’s taste in both food and literature is so close to my own; I was busy lapping up every word and nodding profusely in agreement.
Observations really do make Young’s narrative a joy, see du Maurier’s Rebecca:
the sinister Mrs, Danvers, surely one of the most insidious and manipulative villains in literature, turns a story that could be romantic into one where even the crumpets seem to be a threat.
and E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View:
the thing is, I think meringues and coffee get a raw deal here. They’re meant to be emblematic of the comfortable, predictable life that Lucy lives as a young woman, but I think they deserve better… And so I am here to advocate for meringues and coffee.
I very much enjoyed her bookish reminiscences along the way, such as her passage on first reading The book thief:
I have a vivid memory of being reduced to tears by the ending, trapped in a window seat on a flight to Italy. Perhaps inevitably for a story narrated by death and set in Germany during the second world war, it’s devastating.
I also enjoyed the stories of family and friends along the way, in fact, as the youngest of three sisters, her dedication of Shirley Jackson’s ‘spice cookies’ to her own sister bought a bit of a lump to my throat (also, as my sisters would heartily concur, greater love hath no sister than this that she should lay down her cookie recipe…).
There is nothing not to love about this gorgeous book — engaging, beautifully presented, and full of scrumptious recipes, this really is a must read for all book loving foodies.
The Little Library Cookbook
by Kate Young
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
See also: Moata’s booklist Pop culture will eat itself for themed cookbooks for movies, TV shows, literature and art.