Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club, which this month focused on Ruby Tandoh’s Flavour: Eat What You Love
Mid-World Cup seems the perfect time to pull out a football phrase that can rarely have been truer than when applied to our pair of June Cookbook Club events: it truly was a game of two halves.
Let’s start with the second half. On a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon, as we gathered up in The Cookhouse to feast on dishes from Ruby Tandoh’s Flavour: Eat What You Love. The first dish out was a perfect strike (nearly my last football analogy, I promise): bright beef noodle salad with chilli lime dressing. Bright indeed, of colour and flavour. It set the tone perfectly for the dishes that were to come, and the conversation. Its cook said she’d chosen to do it because she needed something quick, tasty, and convenient. That was the trigger for much debate about who this book is for; about what kind of lifestyle it is attuned to.
Back to the food first, though. Stand-out dishes included carrot and feta bites with lime yoghurt, which I’ll admit I ate more than my fair share of. Miso chilli chicken wings impressed so much that another member started to plan to make them for a picnic the next day—and she was not the only one so inspired. This book stood out among others we have done at the Cookbook Club for just how many members emailed in the days afterwards to say they’d made dishes that other members had brought along.
That included a heatwave-pitcher-perfect pink lemonade with mint (instead of basil—apparently still incredibly delicious) and the pretzel peanut butter pie, notably described by a member upon eating it as “the best thing in my life ever”.
The latter was one of the few dishes that had also been made at the first of the Cookbook Club events for this book, a few days earlier. And there is no getting away from the fact that the first half of the pair was more of a challenge. Possibly it was just a quirk of the dish choices—for where Tuesday felt like a tough night, Saturday was (I can’t help myself) an open goal.
What was definitely common across both events and groups was just how much debate Ruby and her book sparked. I can’t remember another cookbook we have done that got people talking so much about attitudes to food—their own and Ruby’s. Some loved Ruby’s writing and philosophy. Some didn’t. A feisty writer and book? Several members thought so, and I guess that’s either a good or bad thing depending on your point of view. I come down on the side of good.
Stimulate mind and stomach
We talked about the challenges of relationships with food. About the choices we all make when eating. About this book in the context of the ‘clean-eating’ trend it was published during, and even its role as a push against that.
Ruby Tandoh got us talking and eating with passion. And there’s a lot to be said for a cookbook that stimulates the mind as much as the stomach.