Book Excerpt

Roast Chicken and Other Stories

November 15, 2007

From the introduction

Food that tastes good lingers in the memory for all time: such things as good, homemade soups, my mother’s meat-and-potato pie, Bury black puddings, a well-made Bloody Mary, prosciutto and melon, native English oysters with Tabasco, hot salted ox tongue with coleslaw, a dozen snails at Chez L’Ami Louis in Paris, the apéritif maison at L’Oustau de Baumanière at Les Baux in Provence, and the homemade bresaola of Franco Taruschio at The Walnut Tree in Wales.

I have written this book, not because I am a chef, but because I like to cook and I enjoy eating good food. A novelist I know once said to me, on hearing that I had decided to embark on a cookbook, that cooks should cook and writers should write. Well, fair enough. (He is, actually, a very good cook.) I am not a professional writer, nor am I good at writing recipes on a regular basis. This is particularly so when I have to think about listing the ingredients in the right order for each recipe, or giving metric and imperial measurements, or stating exact oven temperatures and precise timings. I have had to learn to do that, and it has been interesting and beneficial to be so restricted.

Deep down in the mind of a good cook are endless recipes. It is a matter of knowing what goes with what; knowing when to stop and where to start, and with what ingredients. Thinking how a dish is going to taste, before you start to cook it, may seem an obvious instruction, but it is not necessarily common practice. It is important to cook in the right frame of mind (we are not talking everyday chores here) and to do things in the right order.

A roasted chicken is simple and satisfying.

Ergo: feel hungry; go out shopping (with pen and paper and money). See good things, buy them. Write down further items that will accompany previous purchases. Buy wine to go with food. Come home. Have a glass of wine. Cook the food and eat with more of the wine. More importantly, do make sure that the food you have bought is the sort that you like to eat and know how to cook.

It is also a question of sympathy between the cook and the cooked-for; is there a worryingly large proportion of people, I wonder, who cook to impress rather than to please?

It’s really a question of confidence. It is far better to cook food for your friends that you enjoy eating yourself. Familiar dishes are comforting; carefully prepared and simple dishes are an asset to a good lunch or dinner party. The food should not dominate the proceedings. Rather, it should enhance and enliven the occasion. There is nothing more tedious than an evening spent discussing every dish eaten in minute detail. “Oh Daphne, how did you manage to insert those carrots in your hollowed-out zucchini?” What’s wrong with egg salad or leeks vinaigrette? Or a simple rabbit stew, or some grilled lamb cutlets? And, of course, roast chicken.

The title of this book, Roast Chicken and Other Stories, was chosen simply because it had a friendly ring to it, and I hope that it sounds inviting and uncomplicated. I also happen to enjoy roasting a chicken almost more than anything. It is very satisfying to look upon a fine chicken turning crisp and golden as it cooks. Even the sound of it causes salivation, and the smell of it jolts the tummy into gear.

I would like to think that this collection of recipes will appeal to all who like to cook; those who gain immense pleasure from being in their kitchens with good produce around them purchased from favorite sources — markets, butchers and fishmongers, grocers and greengrocers, delicatessens and wine shops. I would also like to imagine that everybody could become a good cook and have a healthy interest in the bountiful ingredients that are available in such quantity on our doorsteps.

Good food relies on good ingredients, but it has always been my belief that a good cook can turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse. It takes a little knowledge and expertise, but whereas an ignorant and uncaring chef can ruin the finest free-range chicken, a sympathetic and enthusiastic cook can work wonders, even with an old boiling fowl.

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1. by cdziuba on Nov 15, 2007 at 1:32 PM PST

My favorite food memory is the casserole we had once a week growing up. My mother made creamed tuna, rice, and peas, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. It doesn’t even sound that great, yet it was such comfort food. I think I’ll call her and ask her to make some for me. :)

2. by Joseph on Nov 15, 2007 at 2:14 PM PST

I visited my brother when he was in school overseas. We trekked into the desert to camp. He made macaroni and mozzarella cheese over a campfire. It just hit the spot. Although it happened 30 years ago, it was the best dinner I think I’ve ever had.

3. by Judy on Nov 15, 2007 at 2:19 PM PST

This looks like a great book for foodies like me!

4. by dentondamsel on Nov 15, 2007 at 2:55 PM PST

Oh that book sounds sooo good.!!!!

5. by kristina jones on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:04 PM PST

I wish I could cook

6. by Shirley Younger on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:20 PM PST

makes me hungry

7. by Jen on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:34 PM PST

Shabu Shabu in Tokyo, with my husband, on our honeymoon!

8. by Tanta on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:38 PM PST

I can’t agree that cooks should cook and others should do whatever they do. Eating is essential, and cooking is fundamental to human eating. In theory, then, shouldn’t everyone be a “cook” of some degree of competence?

Looking forward to checking out the book!

9. by anonymous on Nov 15, 2007 at 3:58 PM PST

Mom used to roast chickens all the time and they were awesome.

10. by ezmerelda on Nov 15, 2007 at 5:34 PM PST

This would be a great addition to my collection.

11. by anonymous on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:31 PM PST

my favorite memory is of making pizza- from scratch back before the frozen wave-yummy and lots of fun

12. by BipolarLawyerCook on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:32 PM PST

My strongest food memories are my parents’ attempts to introduce us to “good cooking,” which usually involved something from Julia Child’s MAFC, vols. 1 & 2. They’d had her sign them at Savenor’s in Cambridge, and were the first people they knew who drank wine at home.

I still remember the fruity taste of the red wine they used for boeuf bournignon, and the pain that helping to make all those mushroom caps was. But I also remember the gravy, with its visible thickness and body, the flecks of fat on top of the sauce, and the way it coated the tongue.

The other memory is lobster thermidor, made for my 16th birthday, because “you’re old enough to appreciate it.” It was a two day project, and oiling the shells before they were filled again for the final broil was my job, along with grating the (seemingly enormous) pile of swiss cheese that would go on top for the final serving. I can still taste it, and the only thing that comes close since is Lydia Shire’s version of the lobster stew at Locke Ober.

13. by bob keck on Nov 15, 2007 at 6:38 PM PST

My favorite food memory was the first time I took my time and actually followed a recipe to make Irish Soda Bread. It was simple but when those two loves came out of the oven smelling so good, I was hooked. I still make the soda bread, BTW.

14. by silverbele on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:11 PM PST

This cook book tells it right. To cook you must enjoy eating.

15. by Lara Aleff on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:53 PM PST

I remember the meal I learned to cook. I would cook scrambled eggs and toast for my sister and parents every Saturday morning. I loved being able to provide a good meal to my family. That’s part of the reason why I still love to cook today. I love knowing that I am giving my family food and love at the same time.

16. by drming5k on Nov 15, 2007 at 11:00 PM PST

Hope your book is a best seller like my favorite A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal

17. by Joanna on Nov 16, 2007 at 1:02 AM PST

I’ve had this book for years, and have always thought it a little disappointing. I was very surprised when a British food magazine survey said it was the best British cookery book. I got it off my shelf then, looked at it again, and still found it disappointing. And yet, reading this extract, I found myself thinking, yesss. Maybe I can’t separate the book from the man’s extraordinary obsession with salt, the “right” amount to put in food, as if it’s not down to personal taste. Give me Jane Grigson’s quiet authority every day. But I’ll get that book down off my shelf this week and give it another try.

Thanks ...

18. by AsTheNight on Nov 16, 2007 at 2:22 AM PST

My Dad used to get up early to go to work, long before the rest of the family was awake.

When I was nine years old, I decided one day that Dad shouldn’t go off to work without breakfast, so I set my alarm clock and got up to surprise him with a nice, hot breakfast of fried eggs, toast and coffee.

Mind you, I’d never in my nine years made fried eggs, toast or coffee, but it never occurred to me that things wouldn’t come out perfect.

I put the coffee on to brew in the stove-top percolator, popped a slice of bread in the toaster and fried an egg in butter. The coffee boiled over (was it supposed to do that? I wondered). The egg turned brown on the edges (I figured that meant it was done). Lucky for Dad, I couldn’t hurt the toast since the toaster was automatic.

I put everything on the table and waited for Dad to come out to the kitchen.

Bless his heart, he sat there and drank the coffee (with the floating coffee grounds), ate the cold, burnt egg and cold, soggy toast and proclaimed over and over how delicious it was! I told him I’d be getting up every day to make him breakfast!

Later that dad, Mom told me I was too little to get up that early every day, and beginning that weekend, she started to teach me how to cook.

I haven’t thought of that memory in many years. Thanks for the contest that brought it back to me.

19. by hazel hunt on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:17 AM PST

simple food.

20. by Heather on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:29 AM PST

Although they live in an oceanfront home, I am the only one in my family that eats fish. My father said he was scarred for life after being force-fed smelts every Friday. My mother, while a decent cook, often proclaimed she could live on Caesar salad alone.

Every year on my birthday, my mother would make me fried scallops. She would complain of the smell throughout the entire process. My father and my brother would make faces at me as I dipped each golden morsel into the tartare sauce and gobbled them up. It was the only day of the year that seafood of any kind entered that house.

Fish was also the only thing my paternal grandmother didn’t burn to a cinder. I was invited over for Friday fish dinners and it was truly an honor. My grandparents weren’t particularly fond of having young children in the house and to have dinner in their small kitchen with them was virtually unheard of.

21. by Nora Scott-Platt on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:23 AM PST

I have to say everytime I think of a cookbook I have to chuckle to myself as when I was younger and just learning to cook I thought I could cook without a cookbook. And Low and behold I made a meatloaf that could not be broken. It was almost as hard as a brick..I laugh when I think of it and cookbooks now have a favorite spot in my memory because if I would have looked I would have known not to use breat croutons in the recipe.. Thanks for the contest.

22. by redron on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:40 AM PST

Cooking came easy to me, but I still love a good cookbook.

23. by Tamara on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:11 AM PST

One of my greatest food memories from the past is the Halloween my mom tried to make Pumpkin Soup. It was AWFUL. She wouldn’t let us go out to get Candy until we finished the soup. We were the last kids on the block to go out. The good thing was that we got all the candy left from the neighbors dumped in our sacks. My mom tried the soup while we were out, and admitted to us years later, that it tasted really bad!

24. by lisaray on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:16 AM PST

I love my mother, but she considered cooking a chore that had to be done. Her “recipe” for spaghetti sauce consisted of meatballs (This meant ground beef rolled into balls and fried. Who knew you were supposed to season then or add breadcrumbs? I though meatballs were supposed to be hard.) packaged spaghetti sauce mix from the spice aisle (I’m avoiding using brand names here. Just pick the cheapest) and CANNED TOMATO SOUP! (It was, after all, cheaper than tomato sauce. They’re basically the same thing, right?) Even though garlic grew wild in our yard (!), she never added anything else to the sauce.

So as you might imagine, when we learned that I liked to cook, I was allowed to do it a lot! I got my first cookbook when I was nine. I still cook by book, and always love adding a new one to my collection.

25. by Patricia Miller on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:49 AM PST

Trying new recipes is a passion of mine and my husbands. So we love new cookbooks.

26. by Margaret Stephens on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:51 AM PST

I need your cook book I have ruined way to many dinners and I hate to cook now for I just know it will be a disaster.

27. by starsmom on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:01 AM PST

One of my favorite food memories is the wonderful wild raspberry pie that my grandmother would make when we were at our cabin in the north woods for the summer. She would recruit anyone she could to pick the raspberries, which grew in abundance. We happily picked for hours...wild raspberries are so tiny......when we finished, we waited impatiently for the results. Her pie was always heavenly. It tasted like summer!

28. by silverbele on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:42 AM PST

My mother made stuffed cabbage. As a child i didn’t like them but as an adult I like them. So I tried to make them and matched my mother’s recipie from memory.

29. by Desmond on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:46 AM PST

Wow, can’t wait to read the entire thing!

30. by mistic on Nov 16, 2007 at 10:54 AM PST

I always enjoyed my fathers dinners the most who has passed on years ago. My sister helped herself to all the recipes.

31. by rosidentevil on Nov 16, 2007 at 11:27 AM PST

can’t wait to try all the recipes

32. by pancak on Nov 16, 2007 at 12:15 PM PST

One of my favorite food memories is making my own birthday cake as a child of about 6/7. My mom hovered, but let me do everything on my own, even down to adding blue food coloring to both the cake and icing (I was in a blue phase then). The cake was quite edible, and I have a photo of myself on that day, in front of the cake with a huge grin...I was hooked on cooking at that point. Thanks, all, for the cute stories!

33. by Tangee43 on Nov 16, 2007 at 1:07 PM PST

This sounds like a wonderful book. My family teases me because I curl up with cookbooks the way most folks enjoy novels. At least this one would meet their standards for a “normal” book with stories, but I would get my recipe fix!

34. by cpom on Nov 16, 2007 at 1:22 PM PST

One of my favorite food memories is spending the afternoon with my Husband’s Grandmother, learning to make traditional foods.

35. by moonmaiden on Nov 16, 2007 at 1:26 PM PST

I love roast chicken :) The excerpt and photo make me hungry!

36. by mistic on Nov 17, 2007 at 1:23 PM PST

chicken is my favorite dinner

37. by Lori Harrison on Nov 17, 2007 at 2:38 PM PST

My favorite food memory was having everyone from my and my boyfriends family together for a big birthday dinner. All of our family is scattered across the country but getting them all together for a big traditional spaghetti dinner squished in my kitchen was amazing.

38. by Emmy T on Nov 17, 2007 at 5:38 PM PST

Oh that roast chicken looks good! I love cookbooks like this that offer more than just a good recipy. I like to read about the food, how it came to be, how it tastes, ect. This looks great, and might help me become a better cook, I hope.

39. by idahomom on Nov 18, 2007 at 5:19 AM PST

When I was about 10 I decided that I was going to bake my mom a cake for her birthday. I used olive oil instead of corn oil. It was horrible but my wonderful mom choked down every bite. She probably got sick afterwards.

40. by fullcircledave on Nov 18, 2007 at 10:29 PM PST

Thanksgiving at my grandparents house. I think the food tasted all the more delicious surrounded by family we didn’t see all year. Sadly my grandparents have passed away and Thanksgiving has never been the same

41. by Becca on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:18 AM PST

My favorite food memory would be evenings out at Newton Circus when I was a child. We would wander around, looking at all the choices, and pick something we hadn’t tried, in addition to the traditional 4 dozen satay (one of each type) and jealously guard our portion. My brother and I would look at all the exotic fruit at the juice stand and pick which one we wanted for our drink. It was un-air conditioned, noisy and fun.

42. by blueviolet on Nov 20, 2007 at 7:04 AM PST

My favorite food memory was when my mom made something called Roman Supper. It was spaghetti, meat sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese layered like lasagna is. It is such a feel good food for me.

43. by Sharold Friedrich on Nov 20, 2007 at 11:09 AM PST

This sounds like such a fun and thoughtful book

44. by joni514 on Nov 20, 2007 at 4:39 PM PST

i love to cook and this looks like it could keep me busy!

45. by drming5k on Nov 21, 2007 at 12:04 AM PST

A book for the soul and stomach.

46. by Marianna on Nov 21, 2007 at 1:36 AM PST

Sounds like a fascinating book. I can’t wait to leaf through it!

47. by mistic on Nov 21, 2007 at 1:22 PM PST

We primarly eat chicken more than any other meat for dinner

48. by Katrina on Nov 21, 2007 at 1:50 PM PST

A favorite food memory is my Grandmother’s spaghetti soup she made with leftover pinto beans, always with french bread, butter and salami on the table.

49. by kamewh on Nov 21, 2007 at 2:00 PM PST

My favorite food memory is when my father used to make us Denver Omelets in the morning!

50. by kayte71 on Nov 21, 2007 at 2:02 PM PST

Chicken is my boyfriend’s favorite food. We joke around that the ultimate compliment is he loves me more than chicken...

51. by elysek on Nov 22, 2007 at 8:30 PM PST

Meals at restaurants long-gone and never to be duplicated, make up some of my favorite food memories.

52. by bndraldy on Nov 22, 2007 at 8:56 PM PST

Great food is one of my guilty pleasures! I love it simple and plentiful! Thanks so much for the cool contest!

53. by joni514 on Nov 23, 2007 at 10:14 AM PST

this sounds like fun

54. by kayte71 on Nov 23, 2007 at 11:59 AM PST

I love to eat with abandon and passion! My best food memories involve being with people who are truly joyful about what they are putting in their mouth.

55. by blueviolet on Nov 23, 2007 at 3:34 PM PST

I remember sitting at the table on Saturday nights with my younger sister and two younger brothers and my mom would give us each a plastic mug full of pop and a serving of pretzels and cheese puffs. We called the event pop, pretzels, and shapies and it was the best part of the week for us!

56. by kayte71 on Nov 24, 2007 at 11:40 AM PST

One of my favorite food memories was eating oysters on the half shell with my (now deceased) dad. As a teenager I loved it that no one else in the family liked the food but us.

57. by joni514 on Nov 24, 2007 at 8:09 PM PST

i really enjoy cooking.

58. by bndraldy on Nov 24, 2007 at 8:50 PM PST

What an awesome way to start the holiday season! I’d love to win ANYTHING that helps me with holiday cooking. Thanks for the chance to win!

59. by blueviolet on Nov 25, 2007 at 12:35 AM PST

One of my favorite food memories is my after school snack. We were only allowed to have 2 cookies and a glass of milk but I couldn’t have appreciated those 2 cookies any more than I did.

60. by sunlife9 on Nov 25, 2007 at 4:12 AM PST


61. by mcnerd on Nov 25, 2007 at 10:46 AM PST

Traveling across country in the car with my mother to greet my father at his new duty station, we stopped for a meal at a roadside restaurant and I ordered pork chops for some reason. I was only 10 or 11. But I remember the stuffed pork chops were so good that I wanted the recipe from the cook. My mother laughed about that for years.

62. by Marion Burgess on Nov 25, 2007 at 10:47 AM PST

New cookbooks are always fun to look at and salivate over!

63. by mistic on Nov 25, 2007 at 12:52 PM PST

My favorite memorite was me and my dad picking a whole chicken clean with our fingers for dinner, we never did it that way before but it was fun

64. by Melissa D on Nov 25, 2007 at 1:46 PM PST

This book sounds inspirational, entertaining and lots of fun! Fingers crossed...

65. by joni514 on Nov 25, 2007 at 2:16 PM PST

looks good to me!

66. by mmc67 on Nov 25, 2007 at 2:24 PM PST

My favorite food memory is my grandson eating his first bit of cotton candy

67. by dentonzee on Nov 25, 2007 at 3:31 PM PST

And roast chicken is a healthy meal.

68. by angie p on Nov 25, 2007 at 3:48 PM PST

This looks like a great book! It made me hungry just reading the Introduction.

69. by anonymous on Nov 25, 2007 at 6:31 PM PST

I Love Roast Chicken

70. by bndraldy on Nov 25, 2007 at 7:21 PM PST

HOW AWESOME! I would love to be able to share such a GREAT prize with my family! Thanks for the chance to win!

71. by anonymous on Nov 25, 2007 at 8:52 PM PST

i love chicken.

72. by Schlauberger on Nov 25, 2007 at 9:17 PM PST

Sounds like a great book! Thank you for the opportunity to win it.

73. by jcpawlik on Nov 25, 2007 at 11:11 PM PST

My husband loves to smoke and roast chicken on his rotissary or on pop cans in his ever expanding outdoor kitchen. He is always working on new rubs and marinages, nd would love to have this book!

74. by anonymous on Nov 25, 2007 at 11:30 PM PST

I am a foodaholic. I couldn’t cook a meal when I was first married. I made awesome pies and cakes, but a main dish was beyond me. I promptly started using the one cookbook I was given as a wedding gift and found that I loved to cook. With more experience I began to try ethnic recipes and my children found some were far to exotic for their tastes.
I enjoy going to restaurants and trying to determine which spices were used for a particular dish.
Fortunately my love of cooking has been passed down. My adult children and grandchildren are all excellent cooks.
I would love to add this cookbook to my library.

75. by anonymous on Nov 25, 2007 at 11:40 PM PST

My favorite food memories are of all the weird foods I’ve tried, like alligator sausage, frog’s legs, escargot, burger made of ground snake meat, ostrich meat, shark meat.
A lot of our disgust with exotic foods is just a mental block. Once you actually try these meats, they’re no weirder than any other animal that you cook and eat.

76. by drming5k on Nov 25, 2007 at 11:43 PM PST

My wife can’t cook so maybe if she read your book she would learn some pointers.

77. by pinkyga on Nov 26, 2007 at 2:40 AM PST

My favorite food memory is helping my Mom cook spaghetti every Saturday as a kid. It became a tradition.

78. by Janet M on Nov 26, 2007 at 3:59 AM PST

I love cook books and cooking!

79. by Tamara on Nov 26, 2007 at 5:58 AM PST

I always love to try new recipes, some are great some are flops, but there are always one or two a year, that I get that end up being Family Favorites. Thanks for the chance.

80. by blueviolet on Nov 26, 2007 at 6:58 AM PST

I remember on Sundays my mom would always cook a roast or something and she would set the oven timer to cook it while we were at church. Inevitably, it never worked and my dad would have to go buy a bucket of fried chicken and we would have that. I was always happy because I hated roast beef!

81. by mdeshong on Nov 26, 2007 at 8:54 AM PST

My favorite food memory is the fried bread my brothers and sisters made over a campfire in the back yard. It was God awful tasting and resembled something of a overgrown hockey puck. But it was our first venture into making our own food, in “the wild”. It was also when I realized my mom’s homemade strawberry preserves could make anything taste better. I’ve made many a yummy yeast roll since then, but nothing elevates them like my mom’s strawberry preserves.

82. by bndraldy on Nov 26, 2007 at 9:15 AM PST

Any time our family gets together, it ALWAYS involves food and making good memories. Food and good memories just go hand in hand. Thanks so much for the cool contest!

83. by joni514 on Nov 26, 2007 at 9:23 AM PST

Sunday after church we had a big spaghetti dinner every weeek w/ homemade meatballs and sausage

84. by malazz on Nov 26, 2007 at 11:01 AM PST

A chef after my own heart. Go shopping: “If you see good things, buy them”. Best advise I ever heard. I have to have this book.

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