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Your first glance at the cover of this book is likely to give you one of two mistaken impressions: 1) it is a beginner cookbook for the starting-from-zero kitchen initiate, or 2) it’s everything you’ll ever need to know about egg cookery.
Neither is true. It’s a very stylish, freewheeling, erratic book from a British bakery in Paris (the bakery book is its own whole genre these days), and it will fit neither your preconceptions about British food nor your preconceptions about Parisian food.
Maybe every year or so, a book that’s genuinely good for beginners pops up. I’m always on the lookout for them, remembering my own inglorious initiation as a cook with my roommate’s copy of 365 Ways to Cook Pasta. (Things got better once I discovered The Silver Palate Cookbook.)
But along comes Keys to the Kitchen, and it’s really quite good. I’m not really sure that people will sit and read through the equipment section to make sure they have the right combination of pots and pans, although I certainly would have. But the recipes are flavorful, well-constructed, reliable, and make none of the compromises many “easy” recipes make in the interests of a shorter ingredient list or not scaring people. Don’t be nervous if the recipe looks a little long, folks! It’s just good explanation, and you’ll be glad it was there when you sit down to your perfectly executed dinner.
Actually, I completely forgot about it, which is my usual Pi Day tradition. I didn’t even have any frozen pie dough left over from previous forays into pie.
Sooo, instead, here is a nice picture of the best rhubarb lattice pie I ever made or ate.
It was my consolation pie, after that time I dropped the incredibly complicated rhubarb-strawberry pie I was recipe-testing on the floor. And God, it was good! It made me almost glad I dropped that other horrid thing, so I could treat myself to one so much better.
Although pixels last forever, there is sadly no way, even virtually, to eat again a pie you have once eaten. I guess I’ll just have to wait till May, when the rhubarb will be here again – tart, memorable, and full of solace.
Every time a Nigella book comes out, women food writers have to do a self-inspection for jealousy and Schadenfreude. Nigella’s success comes from a number of sources – a privileged background, a robust work ethic, a wealthy husband, the willingness to put on what she calls her “circus act” of buxom domesticity, an aptitude for luscious prose stylings that go with the circus act, and yes, genuinely good taste in food.
Who are we to say that success is not deserved? But when a book like Nigellissima comes out, it’s hard not to carp. Sure, the food is quick, basically tasty, and capably serves 2. But with a little care, it could be so much better – and the rest of us would have no cause to nitpick.
That’s the phrase I first learned from this book, as in “London fashion publicist turned Paris-based food creative,” which is how Rachel Khoo describes herself.
For a day or two, I walked around thinking to myself, “That’s what I am! a food creative!” In other words: High job satisfaction, low hourly wage.
As for the book, an offering in the category I dub “Easy French,” it’s adorable. It brims with chic. Does it cook well? Basically, yes. You have to read a little in between the lines, the portions are small, and so is the type. But overall, it’s a very appealing package.