There are many things you may not know about Nigella Lawson. Her father is Baron Nigel Lawson of Blaby in the House of Lords. She once worked as a chambermaid in Florence. Her favorite book is “David Copperfield.” And she loves to eat in bed, especially chocolates, which presents a conundrum: Do you let it slowly melt in your mouth or do you bite right down? Life is full of choices. Another thing you may not know about Lawson is that she is a hell of a writer. On drinking Champagne, Lawson notes, “It lets you feel that sharp effervescence, taste that sherbetty tang, and conveys the wincing abruptness of that first, unexpected sip.” Wincing abruptness? Bravo! Which makes me wonder why so many cookbooks are so poorly written these days. So many are no more than shorthand biography. One has to ask, M.F.K. Fisher, where are you? The answer is simple: Just pick up a copy of “Cook, Eat, Repeat” and you will be treated to brilliant writing alongside great recipes. Recipes such as her all-purpose anchovy elixir, beet hummus, fennel gratin and toasted marshmallow and rhubarb cake. She may mince garlic, but she does not mince words: “This is a stew. Stews are brown.” That’s the Nigella we love: a consummate writer, a philosopher and a cook who is not afraid to ponder the infinite possibilities of eating chocolate in bed.
Hetty McKinnon’s parents emigrated to Australia from Guandong province, and she grew up in a suburb of Sydney with two other Chinese families on the same street: her aunts, uncle, grandmother and cousins. Her childhood home was a bit different from her schoolmates’, with a dishwasher that was used only for storage, a bucket of rice under the sink, a backyard garden full of chilies and winter melon, and fish and duck hanging out to dry next to the laundry. Breakfast was congee or fried rice, not sweetened cereal. All of this led to a career in food, delivering salads by bicycle and a cookbook, “Community,” that became a bestselling cult classic. In “To Asia, With Love,” McKinnon demonstrates her ample appetite for the eclectic with a mashup of styles and regions, including soy sauce brownies, cacio e pepe, udon noodles and a chili oat crisp. Some of the recipes combine simple with killer appeal, such as her all-purpose rayu sauce made from garlic, scallion, sesame oil, ginger and gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes). Most of all, her book is a culinary sonnet to the true nature of food, which is not rigid authenticity but rather about the indefatigable creativity of cooks to mix and match their culture, their background and their circumstances to create something old, something new. It’s never the same old song.
Yes, you can make a very good living as a global pizza consultant, traveling from New York to Tokyo to Thailand to Brazil—just look at Anthony Falco. He started his career in food running a Belgian frites shop in Seattle, then moving to New York, where he worked at Roberta’s in Bushwick. As a teenager, he preferred Pizza Hut to his great-grandmother’s amazing Sicilian-style pizza. Now, he appreciates the subtleties of the wood-fired pizza oven and the impact of carefully sourced ingredients. He is a fan of canned tomatoes for sauce, loves a white pie, prefers high-hydration doughs and encourages home cooks to use pizza stones or steels to help retain heat. Falco’s book, “Pizza Czar,” offers different styles: thin and crispy, “Neopolitanish,” even something he calls “ButterCrust” pan pizzas (his recipe went viral). He even includes such “controversial” pizza toppings as Brazilian mashed potato and pineapple al pastor-style. For putting eggs on pizza, he uses the “Selman Technique,” which employs squeeze bottles to apply egg whites and yolks separately. Every home cook knows that a lot can go wrong with making pizza at home. Falco has just found a way to make a good living fixing your problems.