By Nici Wickes, Viva, New Zealand Herald, 25 May, 2011
Cookbooks. Just saying the word soothes my soul. The last line of my CV states "likes to read cookbooks" and I'm not sure how many job interviews that's won or lost for me but I don't care - it's the truth.
There's no better way for me to relax than to settle myself in the big blue armchair, which sits conveniently beside my shelves of food books, and start leafing through these tomes of culinary pleasure. Inside lies the promise of new ideas and old favourites, challenge and comfort, all rolled into a collection of recipes. Most of mine are splashed and stained from my careless cooking style, although a few are pristine from under use - I just like looking at the pictures. Some have been gifts and others I've bought myself but all hold tremendous meaning to me. As a collection, I can chart my life through these books.
A decent cookbook will beg to be cooked from. It will be written in such a way that you can imagine the author standing beside you in the kitchen, offering encouraging advice as you navigate through the various phases of preparation and cooking. It might whisper a warning of a potential disaster, and how to fix it if it happens, or caution you in a more furious way as Anthony Bourdain does in his Les Halles Cookbook.
Over three pages he takes us through the exacting process of roasting the perfect chicken, calling us, the reader, at various stages, "numbnuts" and "a sorry-ass bivalve in an apron" and yelling "Don't rip the freaking skin!". When cooking with Bourdain I'm always slightly on edge.