Who hasn’t dreamt of Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake in Matilda, Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham or even Paddington’s infamous marmalade? Part memoir, part cookery book, Kate Young’s The Little Library Cookbook is a scrapbook of recipes from everyone’s food fantasies in fiction that runs alongside a narrative telling the life and inspirations of the author.
Originally from Queensland, Australia, Young moved to London in 2009 where her books quickly became a portal to memories of her family. In her first cookery book, Young takes her reader on a nostalgic journey of food from modern and old literary classics that are accompanied with anecdotal tales of her personal encounters with the texts.
Reading became a refuge for Young during the common struggles of adolescence and later, when she lived in London, protagonists came to fill the space of distant friends and relatives. She stirs the comfort of a good book into her cooking; a culinary escape that, like a gripping read, promises a journey of foreign or familiar adventures. Choosing only her favourite texts, each recipe is introduced with a snippet of quotation that divides the reader between grabbing a book or a mixing bowl.
Evidently, Young’s love for literature has influenced her writing, as tales of her life through food become the most fascinating part of the recipe, made enjoyable through her humorous, eloquent style. Dedicating many recipes to her friends and family, Young hones in on the culinary inspirations of her grandmother.
This is reflected in her approach to instructing aspiring chefs. Her informal style mimics that of a grandparent watching over encouragingly and offering words of wisdom that advice about whether or not to skip a step, substitute an ingredient or whether it’s okay to make a batch of cinnamon buns for one (it is).
Although some recipes seem daunting, Young chapters her book from sunrise to sunset to allow for a range of difficulties – from simple breakfasts such as Pippi Longstocking’s Tunna Pannakor pancakes to more challenging ventures with A Christmas Carol’s Christmas dinner.
Upon attempting the recipe for the beaver’s marmalade roll in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, it proved very simple to follow for a substandard chef, with useful tips and optional shortcuts thrown in. At risk of sounding contrived, once out the oven it was difficult not to imagine the family of beavers and children enjoying their share while tucking in to their recipe.
A charming idea for a cookery book, Young facilitates the reader in connecting with fictional friends through food. As enticing as the recipes are, it is Young’s own story that becomes the main interest as she transforms this patchwork of novels into her own mini-autobiography. However, there is the danger that with a lack of motivation this could be more of a one-read novel as opposed to an everyday cookbook.
Kate Young is speaking in Edinburgh on Friday 1 December.
The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young
(Published by Head of Zeus)
Photo Credit Holly Thomas.