Why do we cook?

By PA/TPN, in Books · 01-04-2021 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

The world of food can be a fraught place of discrimination, bad pay, and uncomfortable working hours and environments, but it is also a place of vision, incredible creativity, joy and, of course, dinner.

Author and illustrator Lindsay Gardner’s new book, Why We Cook, takes these ideas and contradictions and asks female chefs, cooks and food writers for their thoughts and feelings around the time they spend in the kitchen.
Here’s what you need to know…
The book:

Why We Cook: Women On Food, Identity, And Connection by Lindsay Gardner.

Who will love it?
Not just women, that’s for sure. If you’re connected to or intrigued by the food industry and its quirks and problems, or are a sucker for a good food story and spend many a daydream recalling your own top meals of all time, you will find a nook to enjoy in this book. Gardner calls Why We Cook “a celebration of women’s culinary contributions, achievements, and stories” (and notes that ‘woman’ refers to anyone who identifies as a woman), making it an inclusive read for all.

What is it trying to get us cooking?
Interspersed with essays, memories, chef interviews and pie charts, you will find illustrated recipes from individual chefs, the only link between them being the fact they are important to the creator. There’s sage buffalo meatballs with sweet potato puree, a citrus almond polenta cake, grilled wild salmon tacos and cabbage and wild mushroom pancake – but the focus is less on the specifics, and more on thinking about how we all relate to food, and what we enjoy cooking and why. The recipes are an added bonus.

How easy is it to use?
If you’re expecting a straightforward cookbook, this is not it. You’re more likely to find yourself reading it, dipping in and out of the interviews, answering the ‘favourite ingredients’ and ‘treasured kitchen items’ sections and considering conversation starters (like ‘What do you think of as comforting or healing food?) while eating your dinner, rather than ahead of making it. That said, the recipes themselves, once you’ve landed on them, are mostly manageable (start with the buttermilk and butter lettuce salad and work your way up) and easy to follow. However, you may find it frustrating at times, when a specific dish is mentioned, but no recipe is supplied alongside.

The best recipe is…
Mimi Mendoza’s Canelés de Bordeaux. These crunchy, crispy, gooey pastries are ridiculously delicious.

The recipe we’re most likely to post on Instagram is… Mutsuko Soma’s soba noodles. Handmade noodles are just so mesmeric and therapeutic to work with.

The dish we’re least likely to try is… Those sage buffalo meatballs – buffalo is hard to get round these parts. Beef might have to sub in.

Overall rating: 7/10 – beautifully illustrated by Gardner, Why We Cook is thoughtful, quizzical and informative. And while the names featured are largely unknown to UK and Irish audiences, it will introduce you to a raft of talented food writers and chefs worth knowing about.

Why We Cook: Women On Food, Identity, And Connection by Lindsay Gardner. Art by Lindsay Gardner. Recipe by Mimi Mendoza. Available now. TPN/PA



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