Okay, might as well get over with it soon because there’s no way this review is going to make me look like anything but a mean-spirited, curmudgeonly old bat. Maria Goretti’s beautifully produced cookbook From My Kitchen to Yours is all heart. I just wish it had a mind as well.
Lavishly photographed, lovingly positioned, packed with snaps of friends, family, kids and colourful kitchen implements, From My Kitchen to Yours is the princess of cookbooks. It looks good, makes all the right noises, dons Indian clothing in a section on Id cooking, makes you feel good (and possibly a little envious of the good life?) in a vaguely starstruck way and has about as much of an impact as a certain royal visit currently underway in the country.
But before I get on to dissecting why this cookbook left me feeling dissatisfied, let’s look at what works for it. Number one—appearances. It looks amazing at first glance. If you’re shopping for a cookbook, say, to gift and chance on this one, there’s no way you can look away. The food photographs look good enough to eat, and the in-between spaces are filled up with Goretti’s charming persona, all happiness and positivity. The colour palate comprises brights and lights, the illustrations make you fall in love with kale and beetroot and the overall takeaway is one of a warm fuzziness.
Two—and I can see that word coming up again—the book’s heart is in the right place. It is divided into 12 menus for the year, and each section is introduced by a short essay on the particular inspiration for the month. August, for instance, is dedicated to Goretti’s girlfriends, June to her Kilimanjaro trek buddies, March to her unassuming East Indian birth family. There’s no doubting the genuineness of these pieces or the emotions they evoke. Expecting the author to reveal layers and angularities along this journey of self-discovery— from a mum who began cooking for her kids to a Cordon Bleu distinction and a YouTube channel— though, maybe too much. After all, this is a woman whose dragons, aka personal monsters, too, turn out to be “sweet, loving and (have) beautiful eyes and naughty grins”.
But let’s not get personal here (I’m trying, okay?). My principal grouse with the book is that at its core (I refuse to use the word “heart” ever again in my life. Also, “love”), the recipes, while undoubtedly carefully selected, are sadly lacking in specifics. If you use a cookbook as a manual, following instructions to the last full stop, you’re likely to stumble at the absence of basics such as the number of people each recipe is supposed to feed or the time it takes to cook. How is quinoa cooked (Yellow Peppers Stuffed with Mixed Vegetables and Quinoa, page 22, which says “cook the quinoa, drain and keep aside”)? How large— or small— are the meringue circles supposed to be (Alphonso Meringue Madness, page 88)? What sort of barley is called for in the Mixed Vegetable Soup (page 95)? Does the Herb Cheese Bread (page 79) need fresh mixed herbs or dried? A handful would mean very different things for each. How large do the ramekins for the Vegetable Souffle (page 70) need to be? You get the idea.
And if you’re the kind of person who uses cookbooks for ideas, well, there aren’t too many new ones here. There are lots of non-stick pans, cheese and butter to make everything taste good and dollops of love that go into every dish.
If, on the other hand, you get your visual kicks from cookbooks, go ahead and pick this up. Meanwhile, I’ll look for a tree branch where I can go and hang out with other curmudgeonly bats.