I've collected Tamasin Day-Lewis's books ever since 1983 when I found "The Englishwoman's Kitchen" -- a slim little volume filled with extremely non-glitzy photographs of decidedly eclectic cooking spaces. I particularly love "The Art of the Tart" and "Tarts with Tops On" but treasure all her books -- not only for their splendid recipes but also for her impassioned and eloquent writing style. And then I got my hands on her latest.
Every once in a while I start to read a book and quickly realize it's a soup-for-dinner situation. Not because I discover a great soup recipe -- soup-for-dinner books usually aren't even cookbooks -- but because I am so engrossed in the reading that I abandon all possible household chores. Laundry remains unfolded, bills unpaid and the simplest possible dinner gets served. ("There has to be a container of soup somewhere in this freezer.")
"A Food Romance" chronicles the adventures of Day-Lewis and her American boyfriend as they pursue great food from Somerset to San Francisco, Puglia to the Pyrenees. She writes of her detemination not to let the tourist throngs spoil her time in Venice:
one has to consciously ignore and not be annoyed by the crowds as thick as they are down Oxford Street; likewise by the gawping and clicking, the bumping and jostling, the fact that even the hidden corners, the back-street restaurants, are full of people just like us also trying to avoid people just like us.
and of curing jetlag with fried chicken at Blue Ribbon on New York's Sullivan Street
maize-coloured parcels of insanely crisp, hot, spicy, battered chicken with buttery mash, collard greens and the infamous bowl of runny honey to dip your chicken into. Strange, but it's just the thing to order hot off the plane from England when the time clock is playing havoc and you need pots of comfort food and sleep.
She writes of brunch with Julia Roberts and school holidays with her brother Daniel (yes, that Daniel Day-Lewis), of her father, poet-laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and his great friend Kingsley Amis, of famous chefs and noted restaurateurs. But she also writes of people whose names you wouldn't recognize-- like Lidia, who had been making agnolotti for nearly 50 years for a tiny restaurant in the village of Valdivilla or Guiseppe del Console who makes an intensely fruity olive oil with the "aroma of artichoke and bitter almonds and olive leaves" in Corato, Puglia.
For a year, she traveled and ate and cooked and questioned and reflected and then she wrote about it all. I loved every page. Consider giving it as a Valentine's Day gift -- with love from you to you.