For the best part of two years, I’ve been art-directing and designing for the digital cookbooks start-up, 1000 Cookbooks. Having been on the inside looking around this incredible resource for so long, I rather vainly considered that my own top-ten list was possibly of interest, not least because it’s been formulating in my head for most of the time I’ve been working on this project. So, start with #10 and then take a look at the rest, none of which appear in any order of preference…
#2 How To Eat
This was the book which came before the ‘Nigella’ which TV created – the Domestic Goddess with the dropped surname who would go on to eclipse the brilliant writer. With the release of her latest book, just over a couple of months ago, we were reminded of the efficacy of her written words. She has always been a writer with something broader to say about food and with recipes which felt that they so honestly belonged to her life that you trusted and wanted them for your own.
At the time of publication, How To Eat was like nothing else. At the heart of the book was an entreaty to enjoy feeding yourself first, to learn how to love food and love eating and to find a style that suited you. Its warmth of tone was so different and its daring breadth read like no other contents page around. This is a book about the sustenance and joy food can bring to our lives. Today, its message still seems strikingly fresh and relevant. It’s still so smart and thrilling a read. She wanted to free us from the ‘tyranny of the recipe’ and she created something as refreshingly free of dogma as a book with 350 ideas on what to cook can be.
The candy-coloured accent text of Caz Hildebrand’s iconic spare design and a collection of photographs which appeared more Habitat homewares catalogue than illustrated food book meant that this looked every bit as original as it read. While I doubt she set out to create one, How To Eat became the closest thing to a culinary manifesto for the ordinary cook that the last few decades has seen. Lawson’s great gift was to celebrate and reconnect us with food, to then inform and empower us to share it with others.