For quite some time – a couple of years, at least – food writer Nikki Werner shared a corner of my studio above the shop on Bree Street. I was the only other person upstairs, as Pearl was living in Paris at the time, and frankly, this studio wasn’t half as busy and populated as it is these days, so it was really nice for me to have Nikki’s thoughtful, hardworking presence tapping away in the corner. The only time I ever felt anxious in her presence was when she’d ask that dreaded question about my weekend: “And… what did you eat?”. Food questions generally freeze my brain, and when they’re asked by somebody who really cares AND who will have follow-up questions, I really seize up. I am so bloody useless in the kitchen that I can’t even recall the contents of my weekend lunch.
So in the back of my mind, I like to secretly think that my near phobia of cooking might have contributed in a small way to Nikki writing a book, called “Cook. Better”, along with her partner, Brandon de Kock. They both are self-taught cooks, they like to do things properly, and they can write and take beautifully styled pics. Oh, and they’re funny, too.
This is how they put it:
“Is this a comprehensive primer? No. Is it about ‘simpler and faster’? Definitely not. But it will help take your cooking skills from good to great. It will leave you with some basic kitchen kung-fu moves, giving you confidence to attack meal times armed only with a sharp knife and a fist full of defenceless vegetables…
“… What you will discover, as we did, is that the same ingredient cooked in different ways can taste completely different. Chefs know this – or learn it – but it’s not some sort of dark art. It’s about creating complex results from simple techniques: having the know-how to get things done properly, and once you’ve got the basics down, to enjoy pimping up your plate as you choose”.
I’m going to read this thing, learn the basics from the best, and I’ll then be equipped to apply these intelligently in order to make delicious food. How encouraging. Thanks, Nikki and Brandon! Find the book for sale at Cook. Better online too.
PS: I must just defend my mom from the implied accusation on the back of the book: She really did her very best to send me out into the world with all that I should know, and I did learn a great deal from her, but when it came to the kitchen arts, I was very resistant to the implication that I’d be spending my life cooking meals for my family, so I was a poor, inattentive, horrible student, which is why I must now get a whole book and learn from scratch. Sorry, Mom.