Foodie tribes: A guide to cooks and their books

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

The Yummy Mummy: She's a domestic goddess, of sorts

Aspiring to domestic bliss, she owns books that represent her ideal lifestyle, such as Tamasin Day-Lewis's Tarts With Tops On: Or How to Make the Perfect Pie. This, alas, is rarely consulted, since a part-time job in PR, a commitment to cycling everywhere and two children under five are rarely conducive to the making of pastry from scratch. She has all of Nigella's books, of course, though she sometimes tones down the most calorific recipes. How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking comes in handy twice a year, when little Lily or Alfie has a birthday party and the pressure is really on. The rest of the time she follows Mary Berry's Fast Cakes, pinning open its pages with her imitation Le Creuset. She also loves her battered copy of Jane Grigson's Book of European Cookery – though not her mother-in-law's helpful advice on how to interpret its recipes.

The Lad: He's pukka and so is his cooking

Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef got him into cooking when he was at "uni" and since then he has collected the entire Oliver oeuvre, although if truth be told he also turns to Delia Smith's How To Cook when his mother is threatening to pop round and he wants to know how to make his shepherd's pie topping go crispy. Although he lives in an urban loft apartment, he has fantasies of foraging and owns Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Year and Ray Mears' Outdoor Survival Handbook. The closest he comes to hunting prey, however, is on a Saturday morning at Borough Market, when he takes an aggressive interest in tracking down the perfect wild-boar burger. He also owns Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating and regularly threatens girlfriends with its recipe for braised squirrel. As time goes by his conspicuously carnivorous diet results in an increasingly porcine appearance. '

The Ethno-Faddist: Only her dishes tour the world

She is eating her way around the world from the comfort of her kitchen. Her current bible is Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking (it falls open at the splattered page for "Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Beancurd"), and she is frequently to be found sitting in her kimono, using her son's laptop to browse online for Shaoxing wine. Last year, she went through a Jain phase and cooked exclusively from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. Before that, it was Ken Hom's The Taste of China for every meal, until the children started bringing home pork pies in protest. A gracefully ageing hippie who cooks to nurture, not to show off, the Ethno-Faddist combines a love of travel with mild agoraphobia. She has a huge collection of woks, fondue sets, dim sum baskets and chopsticks, which she occasionally wears in her hair. Last Christmas, she received three copies of Claudia Roden's Arabesque: a Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon.

The Gastro Nerd: Step into my lab-kitchen

Confused by the etymology of "langoustine" or keen to locate his amino acid taste receptor, this scholarly chef will drop his ladle and start scanning his capacious shelves for the pertinent work of reference – Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking (the updated 2004 edition) perhaps, or Alan Davidson's Mediterranean Seafood and North Atlantic Seafood. He becomes so absorbed in reading the entry that his broth boils over – his wife cleans up, as usual. The Gastro Nerd is delighted by Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection, and yearns to drop a banana in liquid nitrogen. Instead, he reads the founding text of molecular gastronomy, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's 1825 Physiologie du Goût (translated by MFK Fisher), the American cult classic The Anthropologist's Cookbook, by Jessica Kuper, or the frighteningly detailed The Compleat Mustard (Rosamond Man and Robin Weir). He is on the waiting list for El Bulli, with only a hundred years to go.

The Classic Cook: You name it, she's sautéed it

Newly arrived houseguests perk up when they see this cook's shelves, a perfect bouillabaisse of books. There is Elizabeth David's classic, An Omelette and A Glass of Wine, nestling beside the Moro cookbook. There is Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories (owned long before it was voted the "most useful cookbook in the world" by a panel of top chefs in 2005). There is Richard Olney's Simple French Food, and a promisingly battered copy of Julia Child's Mastering French Cookery. The houseguests' mouths are by now watering, for these volumes indicate a delightful repast is on its way. This cook, schooled by Prue Leith in the late 1970s, rejects fashion and fancy, and her books, old friends, are largely committed to memory. Amply built and beaming, she arrives back in the kitchen bearing a basket of quail's eggs. "Get out the pestle for the celery salt, will you, darling?"

The Socialite Couple: They're too posh to purée

The shelves of this couple's townhouse kitchen are filled with the cookbooks of their favourite restaurants – Nobu, Marco Pierre White's Mirabelle Cookbook and AA Gill's The Ivy: The Restaurant and its Recipes. Yet the pages are curiously clean and unblemished, and the Socialite Couple's trim figures also suggest more interest in talking than eating. Selina once had a terrible time trying to entertain using The River Café Cookbook – particularly embarrassing as Ruthie was a great friend of one of the guests. Thank goodness for the oyster bar around the corner. Now, Selina tends to favour the less intimidating recipes found in a book compiled by her distant relative Poppy Fraser entitled Fantastic Recipes From My Favourite People which includes Camilla's famous smoked sausage starter. Daddy had it at Highgrove once and it was "delish". They also own a copy of the Chatsworth Cookbook, inscribed with love from Debo.

The Hopeless Cook: Green mayonnaise, anyone?

She thinks nothing is worth doing if it's not in Edouard de Pomaine's Cooking In Ten Minutes. The other cookbooks in her tiny galley kitchen are mainly for diversion rather than instruction, such as Barbara Cartland's The Romance of Food (just a kitsch curio, though she did once make the Green Mayonnaise for a laugh) and The Alice B Toklas Cookbook (which she consulted for its famous Hashisch Fudge recipe). When she eats at friends' houses she exclaims with wonder that their cooking is "as good as a restaurant". She makes a better guest than she does a host – home entertaining usually consists of dips and invented cocktails. Probably anorexic, she once made her boyfriend a tofu and lentil roast that deliquesced into a puddle. Soon after he gave her Darling, You Shouldn't Have Gone to So Much Trouble, a sluttish collection of recipes by Caroline Blackwood and Anna Haycraft. He is now an ex-boyfriend.

Comments