I read cookbooks the way other people read philosophy, or popular science, or history, or even science fiction.
NORTH: THE NEW NORDIC CUISINE OF ICELAND is absolutely fascinating to me, as all the recent volumes by New Nordic chefs have been. Crabapple’s laughing at me, because she’s all “I am reading worthy non-fiction by worthy people and you are reading a cookbook because you are so completely old,” but fuck her, because she is a peasant who eats half-cooked food with her feet. NORTH is marvellous. Not least because each recipe section is bookended by long essays and interviews about surviving traditional Icelandic food production, conducted and written by Jody Eddy. They’re not necessarily deep dives, but they are informational, colourful, sympathetic, and not a little tinged with melancholy. The hard work involved in preserving what seem like archaic and slightly surreal methods of food processing is daunting, as are the methods themselves. Geyser bread! Cooked in pits dug into volcanic plains by geothermal heat! Gislason’s approach to food is an inspirational joy to read. Strongly influenced by Rene Redzepi, of course, but far from derivative, and in that wonderful thought process definable as “purity” that can be traced back to Alice Waters and Richard Olney and beyond, is a joy to read. Food is culture. Food is history. Crabapple is a malnourished dwarf. All these things are true.