Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For) by Ella Risbridger was the feature work at Cook the Books for December/January. You can read the announcement post here.
Risbridger's book is much more than just another cookbook.
This may have looked like a cookbook, but what it really is is an annotated list of things worth living for: a manifesto of moments worth living for. Dinner parties, and Saturday afternoons in the kitchen and lazy breakfasts, and picnics on the heath; evenings alone with a bowl of soup, or a heavy pot of clams for one. The bright clean song of lime and salt, and the smoky hum of caramel-edged onions. Soft goat’s cheese and crisp pastry. A six-hour ragù simmering on the stove, a glass of wine in your hand. (277)
If you're like me, you will find yourself revisiting it often, not only for recipes but for wisdom.
Let's see what the other readers thought about Midnight Chicken. Please note that the round up is in no particular order.
Overall, I felt myself wishing for a bit more. Often, I would be hooked into a story, wondering who exactly the Tall Man was to her (friend, boyfriend, husband?) or what happened with her relationship to her dad's entire side of the family. I'm looking forward to trying a recipe of two.
Amy did find a recipe. Here's her Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup (slightly adapted with what she had on hand.)
Risbridger talks about her life and about how cooking helped her in moments of particular difficulty. She is open about her mental health and her struggles. She lives in London and her shopping and cooking are influenced by the urban environment. She favors prepackaged vegetables, like cleaned and cut winter squash, and canned legumes and wonders who makes homemade puff pastry (I do). Her ingredients are British, like self-raising flour.
Simona was not inspired by any of the recipes but she was inspired by what the British refer to as beetroots and her farmers market bounty.
Challah helped Risbridger grieve for her grandfather. 'Me, I grieved with bread. ...The rules of grief were written somewhere I couldn't see, but the rules of bread-making were clear. I don't know how to grieve, but I knew how to make bread. A six-strand challah bread: knead in anger, rise in grief, plait to find a pattern in it all.' (85-86)
Another CTB co-host, Deb from Kahakai Kitchen, posted up in the nick of time. Deb's thoughts on this cookbook?
Midnight Chicken is a charming book in the vein of a cookbook/memoir which is my favorite kind. I enjoy cookbooks that don't just give me a recipe, but give me a story about that recipe--what inspired it, why it's a favorite, when they first cooked it, or how they enjoy it. Ella Risbridger does this well, and when accompanied with the beautiful watercolor illustrations by Elisa Cunningham, it makes for a pleasurable read to meander through.