Thirteen years ago, my brother Tas gifted me a collection of books as my wedding present. While away on my honeymoon, Tas arranged for the books to be displayed on our empty kitchen shelves. An assortment of new and used books, soft and hard covered, of various themes and subject matters that spoke to the interests and hobbies of the newlyweds. It was such a personal gift, beautifully thought out, and a wonderful way for two people to start their communal library. I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing all the books for the first time. A library, there in my kitchen, ready for me to explore.
The myriad of books about food, cooking, wine, gardening, photography and poetry have proudly lined the slightly bowed shelves of my kitchen cabinets for years, and it always gives me immense happiness seeing them displayed like that. It gives me a certain comfort knowing that as I cook in my kitchen, I am in the company of thousands of written words that authors have taken the time to piece together into sentences to create wonderful books. And sometimes, when I am waiting for a sauce to thicken, or onions to caramelise, I find myself picking one of those books up and having a flick-through.
Of the hundred or so books to choose from, there is one book that has been picked up and flicked through more than any other. It is also the first book that I picked up when I discovered the book-lined shelves for the first time. “Falling Cloudberries” by one of my favourite authors, Tessa Kiros. I must confess that I have never actually cooked a recipe from what has grown to become my favourite cook book. And while that may sound strange, over the many years it has lived on those shelves, it has become my book of happy.
I think it is the beautifully patterned book spine that originally attracted me to the book, followed by the vibrancy of the pink hues of the cranberry sorbet on the front cover. Both those visual things still bring me happiness. As do the many photographs in the book. Not as much happiness, however, as Tessa’s words do.
When I buy cook books, I don’t necessarily buy them for the recipes. I buy them because I love the way an author pieces words together to tell a story. Tessa does that in such a beautiful, elegant way. Her use of words is stunning, her ability to write so beautifully is an art, and reading the stories in her cook book, and the introductions to her recipes, brings me pure joy. Her narrative is delightful.
I have always loved books, and I think that taking the time to read a good one is one of life’s simplest yet greatest pleasures. Authors who enable such pleasures should be celebrated. Tessa, thank you for giving me so many moments of pleasure and joy with all the beautiful words you have written, recipes you have shared, and stories you have told in the many beautiful books that you have written, and that I have come to love. You are a true inspiration, and I am so glad that my brother bought me my first Tessa book all those years ago.
Why did I find the need to publicly declare all of this? Because when you discover great things, you should share them. Caterina and I have wanted to share our favourite cook books for a while now, time and other commitments, however, often get in the way. Caterina has an absolute passion for collecting cook books, as well as a passion for cooking from them, and I have a passion for reading the stories behind those recipes. So consider this my first 'favourite cook book' share with you all, to kick start the process of what will be a very long sharing process.
Written by Effi Tsoukatos for the Sydney Food Sisters