I used to harbour the misapprehension that writing a Cook Book would be fairly easy. Something that could be dashed off without much thought. I mean ……….. where is the difficulty in thinking up a few food combinations ……….the weirder the better ? Then jotting it all down accompanied by beautiful, glossy photos of the finished dish …………. obviously liberally sprayed with some glycerin concoction, to make it look even more enticing. Perfect ! Oh, yes, I could picture myself at the book launch …….. dressed in a delightful little floral, Laura Ashley frock, smiling domestically. I would be asked to endorse a famous chain of cookware shops and my recipes would cause queues for ingredients in Waitrose and a World-wide shortage of quinoa !
No wonder Gordon, Jamie and Nigella always had such smug smiles, when their photos appear on the covers of their books. It was money for old rope !
But last night a friend ……….. a totally novice cook, who has never wielded a spatula or tossed a salad ………… was asking me for culinary advice. He is just starting out on this cooking lark,, fending for himself after previously being more or less barred from the kitchen. I think the most ambitious thing he has attempted has been baked potato with cheese. With so little cooking experience, he wanted to know all about the preparation of various vegetables. The timing and method of cooking. Which pans would be most suitable, etc. etc.
Oh my goodness !
That was when I realised just how difficult it is to explain to someone else, when I am used to just ‘doing’ it, without thinking of the ‘why and wherefores’. Oh yes, I could show someone, face to face. Follow them round in the kitchen and keep them on the right tracks. But, how to actually write it down, put it into sentences that can be easily understood ?
How do I begin to explain how to ‘saute’ ? What is the optimum time to parboil a carrot ? How long does it take to bring onions to that perfect sticky/sweet state of caramelisation ? I have, I suppose, learnt to cook through ‘trial and error’ and good, old-fashioned ‘instinct’ . So, I found it almost impossible to tell my friend any really accurate cooking times for each ingredient. I could only offer the rather weak and watery “erm…… cook it till its done” sort of advice.
Suddenly, I realised that writing a cookbook must be equally as difficult as writing any other book. So …… I’ll never be Delia Smith. Never make my fortune selling millions of books on “What to do with a handful of lentils and an aubergine” !
Another dream bites the dust !!