Whilst in Italy I picked up the above cookbook, by Jaimie Oliver, in the translated Italian version. It is one of my go-to favorites because it covers recipes from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco and Sweden all in one volume.
During the pandemic and on many uninspired days of standing in the middle of the kitchen thinking, “What am I going to prepare today?” this wonderful part cook book part diary part photo journal not only helped me out, but also reminded me what it means to spend blissful hours in the kitchen.
As per Jamie’s rule of thumb, the recipes in this collection are doable by even the most inexperienced person. The inspiring, Instagram worthy, photography arouses the wanna be chef lying dormant in all of us. His writing is like that of a friend as he talks about his travels and the recipes he discovered while making his way across Europe and into Africa, sharing many tips and tricks along the way.
I remember one day staring disconsolately at some chicken breasts and thinking, “How boring and insipid.” How could I have thought that? I mean, you can deep fry, bake or grill, braise or poach chicken. You can cook it in cream, brandy, wine or port and bread it with cornflakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or serve it as nibbles on skewers, or in heftier morsels in a cacciatore or as paper thin crispy fillets and you can season with curry, garlic, paprika, mustard, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves etc… etc…etc…
Do I need to go on?!
Once the ingredients start coming out of the pantry and the colorful spices catch your eye, once the scent of garlic and butter sizzling in a pan fills your nostrils as inspiration ignites…well! then your palette, your mood and, dare I say it, your soul will be uplifted to unheard of levels of joy and yum!!!
Suffice to say, although not everyone agrees with me on this point (especially my mother), for me, there is nothing more inviting or heartwarming than entering a home filled with the scent of cooking (okay, maybe cauliflower and broccoli aside).
A jumble of activity in a toasty kitchen, a well set table for a special event or an impromptu dinner with friends, wine corks popping, people laughing and talking; transformative alright, as all your senses are simultaneously engaged and delighted.
From Tangiers to Toronto, the Cayman Islands to Cairo, the Dolomites to Durban, cooking is the diplomat, the peace maker, the relationship starter (even whilst arguing about which version of the Bolognese is the best one).
If you are feeling down and out or restless and bored, charge into your kitchen armed with your favorite cookbooks and let the good times roll.
As Virginia Wolfe famously said:
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own