1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Don't rush this book,
This review is from: A Girl and Her Pig (Hardcover)
Straight away this book has seemed to spark controversy in some quarters. The front cover features a woman with a dead pig over her shoulders, not quite how a fox fur would be worn, yet there is nothing controversial, campaigning about the picture.
It is almost a serene, respectful scene. Nothing more, nothing less. The author, a renowned chef who was born in England but escaped to the United States, clearly likes her pigs - one of her restaurants is even named after a pig. A good chef will respect their ingredients and if an animal, they will obviously care about the animals welfare before they make their journey to table. Why do anything different?
This is quite a personal work of love for the author, more than just a recipe book, yet it is not so autobiographical first and recipes second. Maybe the author's life and personality starts to come out through the eclectic mix of recipes. Not just porky goodness but the whole gamut of food... even vegetables.
Sometimes one gets the impression that books of this kind are a little too navel-gazing for the author, one of those things a chef "has" to do at a certain time, i.e. issue a book, and thus a lot of the text accompanying the recipes is filling - like sawdust in a cheap sausage. In this book, it doesn't feel like that. There is just some form of harmony. A culinary ying and yang if you will.
Certainly reading about the author's life and her philosophy to her art helps take her food into another, more personable dimension. The author just has a sort of devil-may-care, unplanned rebellious streak that is truly subconscious. Good food often takes discipline (right recipe, right ingredients, etc.) yet on the other hand things like precision are eschewed. Yet it works. Formality and pomposity is similarly given a bit of derision for good measure. Whatever you feel, there is balance here, it makes sense to the author and it will no doubt make sense to you once you get on to the same wavelength.
Even the book's signposting and organisation in some ways shouts planned rebellion yet there is no call for change or doing something, well differently. Sure there is organisation but can you see a thread? Recipes are split into sections, namely breakfast; nibbles; big bowls of soup; well-dressed greens and things; meat without feet; birds; cow; a little lamb; fine swine; the not-so-nasty bits; veg; potato and friends: sweets; dressings, sauces and condiments; a couple stocks and libations. See. No real thread. No chronological order. Yet ... well, this reviewer understands. So maybe it is the "rest of the world" who is at fault if they just don't get this. It is really, really hard to describe.
Even taking a recipe at random - in this case the first one: pancakes with bacon and chilli. Chilli for breakfast? Yet why not? In fact it can be a very nice balance. This book is full of these unfamiliar things and of course some of the more familiar to boot, but do look carefully for hidden differences.
Each recipe is surrounded by lots of chatter - there is no other word for it and this is not being disrespectful. It is like having a loud-mouthed, good-natured Brummie (a person, like the author, from the Birmingham area of England) just talking and telling you things as you go along. It doesn't feel stilted. You are learning whilst (hopefully) having fun. But if there was a test at the end you might struggle to know what you have specifically learned thanks to the structured, unstructured-ness (if there is such a word) to it all. The recipes are easy to follow, challenging but not necessarily hard. Would it be fair to say a positive experience possibly unlike others you will have.
Now, usually at this point YUM would note with disdain if the recipes fail to give an approximation of the preparation and cooking times. What's the point here? No doubt the author wouldn't keep to them - even in a professional kitchen the sense is that the timer might be buried beneath a pile of cloths - intuition rules OK.
So either the author has found a great niche for a book of this kind which is, let's face it, not overly innovative (good chef writes book, adds bit of a life story, recipes etc). Yet it is innovative. Probably not by design either but by nature. So either the author and this reviewer are similarly "mad" (which is a possibility as we were both born relatively near to each other) or there is just a little something that will be shared with you once you start looking at the book.
Let time and your thought determine it. Even if for whatever reason you don't gel with the author and her style, the recipes will still be more than good enough to make this book a great buy. And if you can gel with the overall wavelength which is really, honestly not trying to get you to buy into something. Then well, boy!