Monday, April 7, 2008

Comfort Reading

At bedtime last night, I was feeling tired and out of sorts. I always have a little stack of reading material that goes to bed with me, but last night I didn't feel like reading any of that. I wanted something comforting, and when I want comforting reading, I always go straight to my cookbook shelves. I don't know what it is about cookbooks and why I love them so much and why they are so soothing and cozy for me, but they are (maybe that's why I own well over 150 of them).

The book that seemed just right last night was a cookbook based in the United Kingdom (Ireland to be exact). It was written by the sister of Daniel Day-Lewis (the actor who just won an Academy Award), Tamasin Day-Lewis. It's called Tamasin's Kitchen Classics, and the cover photo shows Tamasin in jeans and t-shirt, ladeling something into a pretty bowl from a red Le Creuset pot just like one I own.

The feeling I get from the cover photo is very nostalgic because my family lived in England for 3 1/2 years in the 1980's. Melissa and Aaron were born there. We bought our first home there-- a two story brick detached house with a lovely bright red door. Our British neighbors (particularly the man of the house) taught us to grow flowers, and we had a very pretty yard. These neighbors once laughingly said that it's embarrassing to have an American with the prettiest front garden on an English street!

While we lived in England, we purchased some pine antiques. A china dresser (open faced hutch), a corner cupboard, a sideboard, a washstand, a chest or two, and a reproduction farmhouse table and chairs. In the cover photo of Tamasin's book, her farmhouse table is surrounded with classic English farmhouse chairs just like the ones we boght in England. It almost makes me homesick!

So, maybe you can see why this book seemed like a nice, cozy choice to take with me to bed. I flipped through the pages, reading all of the text and commentary on Britain and food, and wishing I could eat everything I saw. When we lived in Britain, the reputation of the food and cooking there was horrid, and I'll agree that in many places, this was true. But wherever in the world you are, you can find bad food. We had some wonderful things to eat in England, though. Scones with heavenly cream in quaint, unbelievably charming tea shops. A ploughman's lunch of wonderful cheeses and meats on a plate with a chunk of bread and some good English mustard. (We used to walk the cobbled back streets of Norwich to explore and eventually make our way to the Colman's mustard shop there, which, coincidentally happened to be right across the street from a busy tea shop.) Yorkshire pudding with a roast beef dinner. Oh, and lots more.

I want to cook many things from this book, but I've chosen one thing to make from the book right away (today or tomorrow): Apples Baked With Medjool Dates, Walnuts, Orange Zest, and Butter. Baking apples isn't difficult. One can wing it fairly easily, but this recipe sounds extra good. It's sweetened more naturally (which appeals to me), and the ingredients in the recipe sound nice. Even when I already know how I like to cook a certain food, or when I feel like I've got a good alteration idea for a recipe bouncing around in my head, I choose to stick exactly with the written recipe the first time I make something (always and especially when the cook is as lauded and praised as someone like Tamasin Day-Lewis). After trying a recipe exactly as written, I don't mind making alterations to it later.

And after I try the baked apples, I'll let you know how they were!

I didn't finish the book last night, so it remains on my bedside table for more casual perusal, reading, and enjoyment tonight.