For Day 2 of the 12 Days of Roasty Melty, I decided to do something a little different from my normal recipe posts, and instead share a book with you that I absolutely fell in love with this summer: The Naked Gourmet.
Originally, this post was going to be a gift recommendation, something to get for that person on your list who loves to cook, eat, or even just laugh to be honest. Unfortunately, it would appear that this particular cookbook (I loosely use the word to describe it, because really, it is so much more than a collection of recipes) is almost impossible to buy today. I found my own copy at a junk store in the middle of cottage country in Ontario, tucked way in the back under a stack of thirty year old Reader’s Digests. The front cover is missing, the pages are torn and stained, and it has that musty smell that old books seem to develop. I love it.
That being said, in an effort to share it with you, I searched high and low on the internet for copies. Not only is it no longer in print, but nearly impossible to find even on Amazon, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s “naked chef” brand saturating the search filters. Supposedly it can be found for a tidy $5 or so, but it will take some hunting.
Again, this is so much more than a cookbook. Peter Worthington and Ben Wicks managed to make me laugh out loud so many times as I read through the recipes and their outrageous descriptions. Written as a sort of guide to the newlywed couple (mainly the wife, if we’re going to be honest, it was the 70s) the book is meant to teach the reader how to succeed in the kitchen without really trying. One of my favourite quotes ever about food comes from page 10: “there’s probably been more myth and nonsense generated about cooking than about anything else, with the possible exception of abstract art.” It is also the first cookbook I’ve ever read that starts off saying it’s quite likely the reader won’t like some of the recipes. The authors acknowledge different tastes, and simply don’t care about them. They are confident in their dishes, end of story. They also, unsurprisingly, dedicate the book to themselves.
The sections have names like “Recipes for Royalty” (one’s in-laws), “Camouflage Cooking” (for when you’ve managed to screw up one of their supposedly never fail dishes), and “Panic Cuisine”. Blatantly made up histories of foods are given as descriptions (beef Stroganoff apparently originally being called beef Fonagorts. Wait for it, you’ll get it), or else wildly outdated tips to help the stay at home wife seem like a domestic queen even if she’s all thumbs.
I’m not going to lie, I have yet to make one of their recipes, nor am I rushing to. This book makes me happy because it so unapologetically makes fun of all of us who take food and ourselves too seriously at times. Don’t assume that you’re doing something the wrong way just because it’s not the fanciest or most expensive way. It reminds me the reader that above all else, we cook because it’s fun. It’s a deliciously Julia Child-esque attitude. If you’re the one in the kitchen and you drop some food out of the pan and onto the stove, scrape it up and put it back in. You’re the only one in there, so who’s to say it happened differently? Have fun in the kitchen and don’t forget to laugh.
It wouldn’t be fair to spend all this time describing a cookbook and not share a recipe, so here’s a fine example of Worthington and Wicks’ writing:
Fake Foie de Gras
Know how much pate do foe gras costs? Well if you don’t know you can’t afford it. It’s made from goose liver, cooked and fiddled with to make it into an exotic dish. Well, you can make a substitute which will fold most of the uninitiated, and will have guests asking for the recipe and wondering out loud how such a sweet young thing can be so talented.
- 1/2 pound of liver sausage
- big glob of mayonnaise
- juice from half a lemon
- dash of salt and a smaller dab of pepper
Remove the skin from liver sausage and mash with fork and mix in the other ingredients, then put in dish and chill. Used for spreading on crackers etc.