When I used to go to the bookstore looking for cookbooks to add to my collection I could spend hours flipping the pages of different books. It was much like when I was younger and I would buy albums, then CDs, flipping through the alphabetized record bins searching for disk in hopes of finding something new and even more importantly, something exciting. As such I am the owner of an extensive cookbook library, or at least it feels like it to me. Not as many books as in some peoples collections but enough none the less. Back when I was really buying I would head to the bookstores and it was nothing to buy two to five new books at a time.
When I got home with my finds I would take them to my night stand and set them down. I would go about the rest of my days business but every night before bed I would thumb through the books looking for the must make recipes. Sometimes straight away I wanted to get out of bed and head into the kitchen. It was hard to contain my excitement and wait until the next day to make a new dish.
In time though I began to experience the law of diminishing returns. It began to feel as if the content of the cookbooks I was purchasing was all the same. A trend would hit and everyone would follow suite. Authors would add their little twist to the fad of the moment and publish. The fads would last about two years only to be followed by the next hot trend. Duck comes to mind, slow food, then bacon and now simple scratch cooking, vegetarian and vegan. The later, repentance for our foodie excesses I suppose.
All in all, this phenomena is what I have termed the “gold rush syndrome”. It is where food professionals scurry from one region, type or style of food to the next looking for a nugget in the terroir. One person strikes gold and everyone mines it until it runs dry. This syndrome came to reflect the foodie mentality for me and I just can’t do it anymore. It is tiring, the chase isn’t fun anymore, and once my palette became more experienced it became harder to please. Even so, there are still books being created that stand out and when I do find gold it is not hard to champion or to shout encouragement and praise. Especially when, from cover to cover, a book is full of useful wisdom.
There is no doubt April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Pig is one one of these great books, one of the best in this years cookbook class and upon giving it a closer look I discovered it is much more. A Girl And Her Pig resonates with libertarian resolve. It is apparent Bloomfield is someone who has taken responsibility for herself and her food and harbors no apologies. The cover is as punk as punk ever was. It is Abbey Hoffman. It is Che Guevara. It is Frieda Kahlo.
It resonates with the soul of a chef but it is a book in which a wonderful chef does what really wonderful chefs do, they please. Which is rare in theses days of pop star chefs. If Bloomfield has an ego she checked it at the door. She never leaves you with the impression she is better then you but instead you feel she is one of you. Bloomfield uses a mix of classic recipes that, with time, have become her own and then she laces the pages in-between with food she loves. Simple dishes like bubble and squeak and chicken in adobo are obviously a few of her favorite foods but they go well with the restaurant dishes too. What Bloomfield has done is spend time in the kitchen perfecting classic recipes, using her professional knowledge to create food to her liking and with her touch. It is this dedication that makes the food in this book so special.
Not surprisingly as you get to know her food you get to know Bloomfield. The pages are laced with personal tales of cooking and career and with each turn of the page her passion, which is quietly infectious, builds only to remain with you long after you closed the cover. As such Bloomfield becomes a wonderful voice to have floating around in your head while you are in the kitchen much like a favorite song that always resonates deep within your soul.