Reviewed by Hayley Anderton
Sometimes I wonder if my cookbook habit is getting out of control, and in my darkest moments I’ll even question how many of them a person needs (lots) because my flat is quite small and they can take over a bit, but this year has been different. This year nothing much had caught my imagination and the worry that the kitchen shelves would finally collapse had started to recede – and then I saw Regula Ysewijn’s Pride and Pudding…
It’s quite possibly the most beautiful food related book I’ve ever seen.
What makes it so beautiful is the photography, Ysewijn is a photographer and graphic designer from Belgium whose photography is inspired by Dutch and Flemish Renaissance paintings. It’s also a nice touch that she uses a lot of Burleigh pottery: their particular combination of tradition, design, history, functionality, and all round desirability perfectly complement the recipes.
Of course beautifully styled cookbooks full of desirable props are nothing new, but this is still something special, and it’s certainly the first time I’ve wanted to own any of the photographs – there are a few I’d love to buy and have on my own walls. Bruno Vergauwen’s illustrations are a further delight; they’re full of detail and humour, underlining the lurking sense of fun about this book. It’s a perfect combination, as is the mix of history (for this book is just as much about the history of the pudding as it is cookbook) and recipes.
I love the idea of food that has provenance and history, and with some exceptions (mostly tripe or offal based) love trying that food. What fascinates me most is the way in which herbs and spices were used and trying to trace the likely influence on different flavour combinations. It’s something to stop and think about – the journey those spices were making in the 17th and 18th centuries – and then there are the personal flavour discoveries, such as long pepper, to be made, along with the realisation that ‘pepper’ didn’t always mean the same flavour we associate with it now. Of course once discovered it’s good to have some recipes to cook with these exotic, new but old ingredients.
The contents cover sweet and savoury puddings, be they boiled, steamed, baked, batter, or bread. There is also a chapter on jellies, milk puddings, and ices, and another on trifles. The original recipes are included along with Regula’s updated versions. They date from the medieval to the twentieth century and offer a fascinating insight into British history along with our culinary heritage (richer and more exciting than we might always appreciate).
And the best thing about this book? Once I’d got over the initial thrill of just how nice to look at it is, it’s the realisation that it’s as much a book for reading as for cooking from. The research is meticulous, the history lively and engaging – being able to taste it too is an absolute bonus. It’s food for the mind and the eye as well as the stomach and the sort of book I can’t fail to get excited about.
Hayley Blogs at Desperate Reader and finds books like this absolute heaven.
Regula Ysewijn, Pride and Pudding (Murdoch Books, 2016). 978-1743367377, 367pp., hardback
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