Cooking for Two
by James Barber
Published by Macmillan Canada
386 pages, 1999
Taming the Wild Peasant
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
He doesn't know it, but James Barber
taught me how to cook. A couple of decades ago he wrote a
monthly column that appeared in my local lifestyle magazine.
I'd read every word carefully and then head to my kitchen
with my arms akimbo, ready to bend all of those ingredients
to my will. Through his writing, Barber showed me how to
approach food preparation with abandon and enjoyment rather
than reverence and trepidation. Barber's happy style makes
it nearly impossible to think about your next meal as
anything but a wonderful adventure rather than a chore to be
gotten through before you get to the good stuff.
Cooking, like sex and dancing, is a pleasure best shared. This is a book about what two people can do with their own four hands, and not a lot of time. It's also a book about pleasure. Two people in the kitchen can have as much fun as two people in the bath.
To follow up this thought, Barber puts his money where
his mouth is and gives chatty instructions for each recipe:
and all with two chefs in mind. Over 140 recipes fall into
natural categories. Appetizers; Soups; Eggs and Cheese;
Pasta; Vegetables; Rice, Other Grains and Beans; Fish and
Seafood; Chicken; Lamb; Pork and Beef; Salads; Holiday
Dinners for Two; Bread and Cakes; and Desserts. In fact,
there is such a good range of recipes that it's hard not to
wonder how Barber keeps doing this book after book: creating
wonderful and easy-to-prepare meals that stir the appetite
even at a casual glance.
Eating vegetables doesn't mean you have to be a Buddhist or wear Birkenstocks winter and summer and look like a pink-eyed rabbit. Everbody's eating vegetables today, and because of that a lot more people are learning to cook. Any fool can burn a steak, but vegetables need care, a little gentling, a little understanding.
James Barber seems to give care and understanding to all of the food he tries to gentle. It's fun and enriching to go along for the ride. | July 1999
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of the Madeline Carter novels: Mad Money, The Next Ex and Calculated Loss.