Every so often there comes along an idea which makes you go: hey? Why didn’t I think of that?
I was recently lucky enough to be given a gift from Across The Pond. A really useful one. And no, it wasn’t from Williams Sonoma, but if they’re reading this, hello, just let me know when I can move into one of your stores. If you want to open one in the UK then please please give me a call and I’ll pack a bag right away. I’d fit right in and would sleep under the counter.
The Stocked Kitchen, by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins.
It’s a cookery book, but not as we know it. It starts with the premise that people have cook books, but then they don’t have the ingredients to make the recipes which are in there, which leads to frustration and waste and then going off cooking. And you end up making the same 15 recipes over and over again, only looking for new ones when you have people for dinner or realize you’re about to keel over from malnutrition from eating popcorn for the nth night on the trot.
So it gives you a list of everything you need to stock your kitchen. See what they did with the name there?! And once you have everything on the list, you’ll be able to cook everything in the book. No more dashing out to get the one ingredient you need to create your perfect dish.
It’s got common sense applied to it as well. It’s not all dragon eggs and gold leaf. Yes, Nigella, I’m looking at you in your early days, lord love you. It uses real food, not processed items, most of which will last for a few weeks. I’m not advocating you keep the fresh stuff for weeks by the way, but in general this seems pretty darn sensible.
They’ve also cleverly patented the method. Commercial and intelligent, these two ladies. It’s even got a set of shopping lists in the back so you can tick off what you’ve got and what you need. And there’s a website, and an app. They know their onions.
Okay, so there are some transatlantic recipes that I can’t imagine me ever making. But there are equally some lovely treats in there – Crab Rangoons, Basil Vinegrette Salad, Cinnamon Roll Up Bread, Lemon Pepper Shrimp, Brownie Cookie Sandwich – which I can’t wait to try out.
There are helpful tips scattered throughout along with ideas for parties, using leftovers and incorporating other ingredients. I particularly liked the idea of the Hot Cocoa Bar with various toppings to go onto their Hot Chocolate recipe – I can imagine that being a hit at Bonfire Night or a children’s party.
It helps that The Other Half has worked a lot in the States so I’ve amassed a collection of Cups and an understanding of American cooking, but frankly it’s not going to be that hard to apply the same principles here.
I’m not convinced that I will be adopting this as a system – I love my random fridge dives, freezer guesses and the sheer unpreparedness of opening a cookbook and just going with it too much. But if you had to cook for a family, didn’t know where to start, needed to keep a tighter rein on the family pursestrings or just fancied a change, then I think it’s a pretty darn good idea. It ties together a basic knowledge of Home Economics with the realities of producing a varied menu without having to think too hard about it.
There’s also a lovely touch at the back of the book. I don’t know if this is a standard in US cookbooks, and The Boo is asleep upside down on me as I type, so I’m not getting up to check right this very second, but there is a page at the back which made me stop and think. It states that statistically, someone who picks up the book will either be directly affected, or know someone who is affected, by the issues of either domestic violence or postnatal depression. Along with a supportive message it gives ways to contact those who can help in the US. I think this is a great idea, and echoes the whole ethos of the book.
So watch this space for some transatlantic cookery trials. I can’t wait to form a Pesto Cheese Ball – I might have to throw an Independence Day Party!
PS Williams Sonoma, I wasn’t joking. Call me.