Charitable cookbooks

How much would you spend on a cookbook? And would it make a difference if there was a charity involved?

It’s been a busy week for cookbook launches. I missed last Monday’s launch of Tweet Treats (it was trumped by a late stint at the desk and then a tribute to one of my personal heroes, the late Kadar Asmal, at Dublin’s Mansion House) but I did get a copy of the cute and clever little book in the post. Compiled and edited by Jane Travers for O’Brien Press, Tweet Treats is short, sweet and all about understatement, being based on tweeted recipes from various celebrities and other online friends of Travers. She’s thrown in a few of her own too, such as this mushroom risotto recipe: Soak dried mushrooms. Saute onions, fresh mushrooms, garlic. Add dried mushrooms, Madeira wine. Reduce. Add Arborio rice. Add stock til absorbed.

Some are more for fun than for serious consumption. Ryan Tubridy has offered up this little classic: “Ok, take one slice of HB ice cream, two fresh wafers & nothing else. Place ice cream between the wafers. Et voila!

With 1000 recipes packed into a book the size of a pair of iPhones, there’s bound to be lots of inspiration in between the wafer sandwiches (which, for anyone who hasn’t tried it, is a genuine classic). What’s more, all royalties have been donated to Medecins sans Frontieres, so you know your €7.99 is being well spent. See www.tweettreats.org for more details.

A week later, it was another Monday, another charity cookbook launch. I made it along to this one, which took place in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. The book in question couldn’t have been more different from last week’s sweet little offering. Much like the restaurant itself, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud: The First Thirty Years is brashly bold and full of very very beautiful food. Barry McCall, one of Ireland’s leading fashion and advertising photographers, is perhaps better known for his portraits of Ireland’s ‘beautiful people’ – and he brings that eye to these painterly portraits of what is deservedly known as some of Ireland’s most beautiful food. Even the recipes know their place in this book – relegated to the back as a kind of reference section for those anoraks amongst us who might want to know such technical details as how you would go about recreating these masterpieces. And as promised in the title, the story is also told of the first 30 years of this venerable institution, written by author Susan Ryan in sometimes poetic tones, prefaced by a foreword from Bono and dotted through with quotes from anyone who is anyone in RPG world. For most of us though, this is a book to leaf through, double-page-spread image by gorgeous double-page-spread image, a book to swoon over in the lounge, darling, rather than sweat over in the kitchen.

Even without knowing that the book is a collaboration with the Irish Hospice Foundation, to whom the proceeds go, I’d venture that it is still worth spendng €50 on. Well you didn’t think this kind of quality came cheap did you? If you did, you’ve clearly never picked up the tab in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.

Like I said, a busy week for cookbooks – and that’s before I even mention last Thursday’s launch of the new Valrhona cookbook, or how to win one. But that’s another day’s work.

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