Friday, February 19, 2010

The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones

My latest find in cookbooks is Judith Jones' The Pleasure of Cooking for One.  I picked it up at Rabelais in Portland this past Wednesday on my food and art tour day there.  Rabelais is a must on my Portland excursions.  They have the best selection of food, wine, and cookbooks I've seen anywhere and the folks who own it couldn't be nicer.  Contact Rabelais via their website, or you can order it from clicking the Amazon link to the left.

If you've seen the hit movie Julie and Julia, you probably already know who Judith Jones is.  She is often credited with discovering Julia Child being the first to recognize what a tremendous pioneer she was for the American culinary world.  She has also published a collection of memoirs/recipes called The Tenth Muse, which has just found its way onto my reading list.  She references a few of the recipes from The Tenth Muse in Cooking for One.

Since I usually cook for just Dan and I, this is refreshing book to read with scaled back portions and lots of thought put into making things easy and time effective.  She even gives advice about what sorts of pots and pans to use for the recipes which are smaller than those commonly found in kitchens.  There is also a sense of practicality that many cookbook authors today are too often unconcerned with.  This book is not about photography and flashy techniques.  It is about honest, simple, good food that is nourishing and uses readily obtainable ingredients.

Another great feature of the book is that it includes advice of what to do with leftovers.  Jones often suggests one or two options to spin out more meals by stretching out what's not eaten on the day the meal is served and the cleanup done.  She advises that you save everything - chicken livers and gizzards, meat drippings, extra salad dressing, and even a few tablespoons of cooked spinach.  This is the way I do my weekly cooking, so it's nice to have so more ideas to play with, of which there are many in this book.  It's a Yankee mentality that I have learned to embrace living here in New England.

The writing is personal and she makes a point of not giving precise measurements.  She feels that cooking should be intuitive and a skill that must be cultivated and learned over time.  I like the way she talks about making bread in this respect.  Her point is that various flours absorb different amounts of water and the only way to tell if a dough has enough is to touch it yourself.  I understand that this point can be frustrating for a novice cook, but like most things worth doing in life, cooking good food takes lots of patience, practice, and experience.  You can tell from her descriptions that these recipes are all things she has cooked many many times and are dear to her heart.

I can't recommend this book strongly enough to you.  If you cook for yourself or just you and a loved one, it is a must have in your library.  You'll be inspired to create meals that you can take pride in, even on a Tuesday night.  As Jones writes, "Cooking is a comforting form of relaxation - something that is needed in our busy lives... I wouldn't miss this pleasure for anything."

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