Whilst Julia isn’t the first food blogger to get a book deal, she’s one of the first in the UK and certainly the first that I know personally, so I couldn’t help but feel especially delighted for her and eager to check out A Slice of Cherry Pie for myself.
Published by Absolute Press, a company with a great reputation for beautiful food titles, there’s a clear focus on evoking the different seasons, and the way they affect mood and inspire one’s cooking.
The book takes us through the year, season by season, chapter by chapter, with titles such as Cherry blossom, Sunshine and lemons, Pebbles and ice cream and Wood smoke and roasts; eight such chapters all together.
At the beginning of each is an introduction from Julia about what the season means to her – a mix of nostalgic memories and current cherished habits. I like the hand-written fragments from Julia’s blog: “Blossom-filled trees, dipping with their heavy loads, flowers in full bloom peeking out from beneath cotton wool snow; how beautiful snow is in the springtime“. Here and there are excerpts from cherished books and poems such as Wuthering Heights, The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh…
As readers of Julia’s blog would expect, there are plenty of colour photographs throughout the book, beautifully styled images of the recipes themselves, intimate childhood snapshots from Julia’s family album and some of Julia’s own photographs too.
Design wise, for me, it’s a mixed bag. Most of it I like very much, such as the lace and aged parchment background to one recipe, the spiral bound notepad behind another and the textural peeling blue painted wall. Other design elements, I find less appealing, such as the photograph of a pumpkin chopped into a panel grid and other retro design motifs. Of course, a retro look and feel was probably part of the intentional design brief, given the nostalgic nature of the book, so chalk this up to personal taste!
I like food books that are a combination of recipes and personal memoir and Julia’s book leans in that direction. I confess, I’d like even more of those personal passages; they give a deeper insight into the memories and feelings that have inspired Julia’s cooking and make the book much more than a simple collection of recipes.
Recipe wise, Julia shares fairly simple dishes; the kind of food one cooks at home or might expect at a cosy little pub with a reputation for good home-cooking. Recipes range from soups and salads to light bites and hearty mains to desserts, patisseries, sweets and biscuits. For experienced cooks, there’s probably not much that they won’t already be familiar with or be able to create off the tops of their heads, but I think the simplicity of the recipes together with the straightforward, encouraging instructions will appeal a great deal to novice or less experienced cooks.
I know I was not alone in asking, when I heard about the book, whether it would contain a recipe for that eponymous cherry pie – the simple pleasure that sums up Julia’s passion for hearty yet delicious cooking? And of course, it does. Julia says in the introduction: “To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that any cherry pie can live up to the one in my head: the one with crumbly pastry and glossy, jammy cherries bursting with deep flavour; the one that tells stories of summertime and of family life around the kitchen table; the one that offers nourishment and love with every bite. So here I offer you just a humble pie, but one that makes me very happy. Eat a slice of it warm with vanilla ice cream and tell me the world isn’t a better place.”
I was sent my review copy of the book in the depths of a snowy winter, so cherry pie was the last thing on my mind. The recipe that appealed was a hearty dish Julia describes as a “rib-sticking pasta dish“, the creamy sausage pasta.
This is one of those dishes that is definitely more than the sum of it’s parts. As Julia says in the recipe introduction, the creamy sauce takes on the flavour of the sausages and onions, coming together into a beautiful finished dish.
We’ve made it a couple of times and it’s definitely joined our repertoire of simple, tasty suppers.
A Slice of Cherry Pie is published by Absolute Press, who provided Kavey Eats with a review copy.