A NOVEL I once read described a protagonist as the sort of woman who reads a cookbook in bed. I glance at my bedside and ponder the hardcovers sitting there. Hetty McKinnon. Anna Jones. Alison Roman. Are these not the great writers of our time? Steinbeck lies under a glass of water – the essential, reliable storyteller and coaster. But for practical, everyday beauty, for hope, for love, for mind-changing advice, it was always cookbooks.
Even in my childhood, books involving food interested me the most. In The Story of Little Black Sambo, out of print now because of its obvious racism, a little boy engages angry tigers in a race in circles, a trick that ultimately churns them into ghee. Roald Dahl both enthralled and informed in his books. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: ‘Doyou know what breakfast cereal is made of? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners.’ In How Does a Czar Eat Potatoes? by Anne Rose, a Russian peasant tells how his king demands that hot potatoes be fired from a cannon and through an enormous block of butter, so he can catch them in his mouth.
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