Being asked to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a number of changes to our lives but one of the most prevalent ones is we are eating more home-cooked meals. Our relationship with food is complex: eating, cooking and sharing food whether it’s on regular, ordinary everydays or at life-changing occasions like weddings or funerals creates potent sensory memories and ties the food to a particular time of our life and the people that we were with. (More on food nostalgia and gustatory memories can be found in this HuffPost article.) For example, I have cooked many bean (kidney, garbanzo, black bean etc.) dishes in the last three months and my relationship with these dishes will always be tied to the memory of staying home with family while sheltering in place and being grateful that we were safe.
Whether you are new to cooking or an expert (or someone who loves browsing cookbooks without any intention of replicating the foods: I’m usually guilty of this!), here is a series of posts on cookbooks to browse during (and after) quarantine. The only regret, unless you buy a physical copy, is with libraries still closed, the book are only accessible digitally. I can’t wait to borrow and bring home physical copies!
Let’s start with cake
Simple Cake by Odette Williams is a book that should be on every baker’s bookshelf. First, a little background: I love cake. A cup of tea and a small slice of (any) cake is how I retreat, relax, and recharge. It’s not a meal so much as a place, a sanctuary. That said, I am not much of a baker. I can whip up a cake if required to do so but I have never taken time to get better at it or to increase my repertoire. There is the chocolate cake I bake for my boys’ birthdays and as a treat through summer vacations, a tea cake, a buttery pound cake indulgence that I bake for myself, and a fruit cake that brings back fond memories of holiday get-togethers. Enter Simple Cake by Odette Williams and my interest in baking has skyrocketed. I borrowed a digital copy from the library a few weeks ago and the word Simple before Cake had everything to do with it. Baking has always seemed aspirational, requiring knowledge, time, magic, and some talent that I didn’t have. Enter Simple Cake again. If you’ve always felt overwhelmed by information and instruction overload, the book breaks it down and makes baking accessible by first sharing general tips for overall successful baking (e.g. strictly following measurements or don’t keep opening the oven while you are baking to check on the cake etc.) The author shares 10 basic cake recipes and then shows you how to build on them for more elaborate cakes. In addition, browsing through the book is like looking through an album of the author/baker’s memories and that as much as the cake recipes appealed to the storyteller in me. After all, food, especially cake, is never just something you eat. It’s a snow globe capture of a day in your life: an afternoon when you and the kids are baking together in the kitchen or it’s a birthday or a wedding or the day you baked a cake for a friend to say Hope you feel better.
This book is a keeper and I can’t recommend it enough because it has inspired me to bake more, and with more skill.
Looking for more cookbook recommendations? Click here for some that may interest you! Have any cookbooks that you’d like to recommend? Leave a note in the Comments section.