We are all starting the year with new resolutions, and mine are as always, same as they were, and have been almost every year – work harder, stay leaner, get a moment of rest now and then, and really relax, like in the old world days.
Nowadays we are always rushing, every task of the day has to be quick and well thought out. There is no time to relax and savor. There is no time to enjoy the moment. We are always on the go, running for the next opportunity, activity, or event, meeting deadlines, and squeezing in the efficiency in every possible activity.
The way I like to relax is planning out meals. I don’t like to do it in haste. I think about the pleasures of cooking, and how the dish is going to taste. I cannot do it quickly, I love to imagine the flavors, and this is one of the best ways for me to sometimes just forget about the tasks on hand – looking through my old favorite cookbooks and reminiscing about the food I once had made of those recipes, or looking through my new cookbooks and imagining what it would be like to eat some new dishes.
And so much in cookbooks goes with that impression. The idea, and the certain non-palpable impression that the picture gives – we cannot like the dish we haven’t cooked yet, we cannot like the dish that we have not smelled, so a lot lies in the food photography territory for us to like the cookbook we are reading. I have had a privilege to be a reviewer for many cookbooks, and as I am just one and only me, and I don’t have a test kitchen that I run, and I don’t even cook every day, or make all of the dishes that I see in any given book, I rely a lot on the skill of the food photographer to tell me the story that the cookbook preaches. I know that the likes of old world chefs could get away with actually having to cook every dish in the book that they have written about, and we would trust their name written on the front cover to get us through the ever so complex beef bourguignon or aspic recipe steps, but today we have to trust the visuals we see in the cookbooks to guide us along to be tempted to feel what the dish would taste like, and what to expect when we make it. That is the primary reason why I love my cookbooks to be in color, and have as many recipe pictures as there are recipes in the book. Any other variation of a cookbook without the necessary pictures leaves too much for interpretation, and for those of us with little imagination, we would just be too tempted to overlook such a book in favor of a more colorful and detailed kind.
Today I am looking over a new cookbook that immediately transports me to the world of perfect French cuisine, and this is “French Country Cooking” by Mimi Thorisson. This book is a relaxing read, for if you like the idea of cooking old world dishes with a modern twist, don’t have a ton of money for a trip to France, you will be guaranteed a pleasure of experiencing France, and inspired to cook French basics yourself, as the recipes are delectable to try, easy to follow, and absolutely stunning photography to only hope to ever come close to in my own photography attempts.
When I photograph food at home, I often obsess about perfection. The cupcakes have to be just perfect, better than on a picture. The colors and the theme have to match everything, and the mood. I obsess about not having dirt or crumbs in the background, or have to obsessively blur everything so that my readers can see that I have everything better than perfect. I use backgrounds that are always new and amazingly white, bleached out to a point that you don’t see any details of any possible stain or hair. I obsess and obsess. And then I take this book, and I see how the imperfections are embraced, and, in fact, almost highlighted. Do we have cracked floor, or a cracked piece of marble around? Hair in the picture messy? Did the sauce spill all over the pot? Who cares? This is France, people, this is a book about cottage living in France, now is it supposed to be all fancy? The food and the charm of the old world take front and center place in the book. This cookbook embraces the ugliness of organic and local ingredients, farm produce, and living the good life of enjoying the fruits of the harvest in France. The furniture, authentic family photographs, photos that look like still life from famous Dutch paintings relax and remind you that the world is not all conveyor belt products packaged up and all looking identical – apples in this cookbook are actually all different, every single one mushroom is wild, and imperfect, dishes are handmade, and are there to nourish and savor.
In other words, if you are looking for some cheap vacation to France, you have got yourself a bargain right here – get this book, a bottle of wine, and plan out your meals for the next few weeks out using the recipes from the book – I recommend checking out my favorites – tomates farcies, baba au rhum, gateau Breton. I couldn’t say anything else but agree with Mimi, the author, on just about everything in the book – the importance of family meals, living the good life. I love the relaxed attitudes, and the charm of country living.
Enjoy the picture perfect of French country cooking, and try to recreate the recipes, as they certainly look dreamy and pleasant, just like the book itself – love themed dinners in the fall when fresh local produce is in abundance, and we can try to imagine ourselves living the cottage life we always dream about.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.