Remember when the kitchen was where women lived? It was where a man’s dinner came from when he got in from work, piping hot and with a side order of that day’s paper.
It is a huge cliché of course, but even now there are men who either can’t cook or won’t cook.
Miranda Gardiner’s father was one of those people, all at sea when it came to food preparation and cooking. This wasn’t a problem when her mother was alive, she attended to his every meal. But when she died there was a bit of a problem. He was left slighty floundering.
What happened then was that Mrs Gardiner, a former curator of the Tate St Ives gallery, stepped in. Adept in the kitchen, she decided to teach her dad to cook some basic dishes that were quick and easy to prepare.
Those meals and dishes form the basis of Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack, the cookbook the Bigbury-based writer has recently released.
I have to declare an interest of sorts. I met Miranda on a bread-making course with Manna From Devon a little while ago, during which she explained its gestation.
What she has produced has more than time and effort poured into it. There is a lot of love in it. When I first wrangled a copy out of her publisher I forgot the back story behind it. Flicking through the pages at the simple yet tasty recipes, I did a lot think thinking of ‘but I can do this already, this is too easy’. Of course I was missing the point completely.
Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack isn’t about creating haute cuisine for a swish dinner party to impress your friends or wooing a lady/gentlemen. Instead it is chock full of simple and easy recipes that cooking novices can do and get a sense of achievement. For that reason it would be a great way to get kids into food – if you could get them to eat the vegetables!
What it also has is a lot of recipes for simple dishes that make you think: ‘Yes, I can do that! I can’t believeI didn’t think of it myself.’ or maybe that was just me…
The book might have a domestic feel but Gardiner has done her time in the trade, working for Keith Floyd under a young Jean-Christophe Novelli and also in a Sydney Cafe.
The eponymous flapjack kicks off the book. What follows are recipes inspired by her family’s Cornish heritage and her own childhood experiences. This ranges from heart pies, stews and puddings to light salads and snack dishes. There is also a Scandinavian vein running through the book, thanks to some Finnish and Swedish in-laws, which adds a slightly different twist to the pages. Hard to argue with dill hotcakes and kiln-roast salmon.
One other mention I have to make. Miranda did all her own photography for the book and it is excellent. Makes me feel inadequate snapping away with an iPhone.
Any negatives? Well some. The book is, to my taste, quite posh. I’m sure the kiln-roast salmon was excellent in Sweden but it probably costs a fortune over here. This seemed a little at odds with the homespun nature of the recipes. But of course, the easy answer is to substitute your own ingredients in, just as I will when a recipe calls for me to make my own pastry!
But overall, this is a book full of recipes that can bring people together round a kitchen table or counter (if that is physically possible) to enjoy the making of food as much as the eating of it – which is half the joy of it.
Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack by Miranda Gardiner is available now priced £20, published by Hardie Grant.