A farmer’s wife

I have spent the last month immersed in cookery books; old ones from the 17th through to the mid 20th century. They are mainly handmade books — collations of recipes, medicines and kitchen wisdom from women in humble circumstances. I’ve met some extraordinary collators. One of those is Anne Hughes, the wife of an English…

Muto on gratitude

“To be a taker of food or any other commodity without appreciation diminishes our humanity. The height of selfishness corresponds to the avaricious depths of assuming that we are the reason the giver exits. Mother’s table is for me; all the thanks she needs is for me to eat my fill of what is on…

Nancy Willard on how to stuff a pepper

An award winning writer of children’s books, the late Nancy Willard was also a novelist, poet and an observer of ordinary things. Even better, she wrote recipes … my kind of recipes. I’m a cook who doesn’t like to be told. Entice me with visions then leave the rest to me. Thank you Nancy. I’m headed home to stuff…

A Steamy Pentecost

In Eating Heaven, I tried to say something about the café and the role its tables play in our cities and lives. Then I find the collected poems of Irish poet Michael O’Siadhail, and discover he says it with more beauty and fewer words. I tip my hat. Lunchtime in a London Café Table by table…

Rousseau on wine

“Indeed, I must say that good wine seems to me an excellent thing, and I do not at all dislike getting merry as long as I am not forced to do it. I have always observed that false people are sober, and that a great reserve at table is quite often a sign of artificial…

Coffee: the rare friend

“Brewed from beans freshly roasted and ground, good coffee is as transient and enchanting as its own steam or the company of an elderly friend, all the more brilliant and wise because he or she is aware of mortal limits. A perfect cup is much less if it has to stand five minutes during an…

Capon on the taste of eternity

“To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever…

Koffmann on embroidery and cheese

“When I am working in the kitchen, I never wear a toque. It is something I find slightly pretentious. I feel the same way over the more recent custom of embroidering chefs’ names on their jackets. I find it ridiculous and more than unnecessary to have my name written on me as though I were…

Capon on Feasting

“Let us fast — whenever we see fit, and as strenuously as we should. But having gotten that exercise out of the way, let us eat!  Festally, first of all, for life without occasions is not worth living. But ferially, too, for life is so much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never…

Capon on food as sacrament

“Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than it is useful. Necessity is the mother of cliches. It takes playfulness to make poetry.” Robert Farrar Capon

Barnes on stove-splash

“In China it’s taken as a compliment if the table cloth immediately surrounding your place is, by the end of the meal, a site of major spillage. … The same principle applies — without any shadow of ambiguity — to cookbooks. The more decorated their pages are with stove-splash, peel-drip, edible Rorschach stains, oil starbursts, beetroot…

Conrad on recipe books

“Of all the books produced since the remote ages by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion. The intention of every other piece of prose may be discussed and even mistrusted, but the purpose of a cookery book is one and unmistakable. Its…

Mum’s sultana cake

Mum’s cake repertoire was slim. At one of end of things, there were those heavy fruit cakes stuffed full of dried fruit and spices boiled together; at the other end, her simple butter cakes in three varieties — plain, chocolate or rainbow — and covered with icing. To be honest, my natural love of cakes…

Double Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies

Brownies bake with an American accent.  Honestly, I never laid eyes on a local brownie until they were standard café fare twenty years back. As much as I hate to admit it, these glorious squares of fudgie goodness are an import. Given how good and right they are, I would like it to be otherwise….

White Chocolate and Macadamia Blondie

Purists are boring.   No doubt, my recipe for a White Chocolate Blondie will offend on two fronts. First, my cocoa obsessed friends sniff at the very mention of white chocolate. “You know, Simon,” they declare with tedious superiority, “technically, it’s not chocolate at all.”  It’s a “confection,” they go on to explain, as though…

Barnes on the virtue of recipe books

“Ah yes, your own recipe book. You will need some kind of small scrapbook or filing system for all those newspaper and magazine cuttings. Another word of advice: don’t stick them in until you’ve made the dish at least twice and know it has some chance of longevity. Such a cuttings book will, over the…

Gopnik on eating

” … gastronomy is the great adventure of desire. Its subject is simple: the table is the place where a need becomes a want. Something we have to do — eat — becomes something we care to do — dine — and then something we care to do becomes something we try to do with…

Berry on food as sacrament

If I ever talk of daily food as a sacrament — a visible sign of grace — there are those who raise their eyebrows in disbelief: parents of young children as they wipe up the pureed banana slops of the kitchen floor; or the one who struggles with an eating disorder and for whom food is…

Death and cupcakes

The old gold fields town of Castlemaine in central Victoria is where I go to write.  I stay in a bed-and-breakfast, always the same house, the same room.  It’s a simple space with a desk, a bay window and a view of the well-kept garden beyond.  Often there are other guests about, though I go to…

MasterChef and the kitchen table

Gay Bilson knows a thing or two about food. As a professional cook and restaurateur, she understands the world of fine dining and the sensibilities that drive those who cook for the top end of town. Her Sydney restaurants Bon Gout and Berowra Waters Inn are still remembered with acclaim. Now retired from the professional…