The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy Lee
Cookbooks are so much more than lists of recipes anymore. Some are really just about the pretty pictures or the personality of their author. Many are attempts to catch a popular trend, usually of the 'diet' variety.
Mandy Lee's cookbook might have mouthwatering pictures and a strong sense of her acerbic personality, but it's also a travel memoir, a biography, a Dear John; or, as the subtitle succinctly summarizes: a survival story.
I'm not sure I've ever really found myself thinking about how well a cookbook meets a political moment, however, until this one. (Which is a shame, because food is so much a part of culture, identity, class, economics, history...) In particular, Lee's comments and thoughts on her experience in China feel prescient given the unfolding protests in Hong Kong. I've never found a cookbook that has perfect matched a revolutionary moment. (Bettina Makalintal's piece in Vice says this all waaaaaay better than I.)
The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors by Mandy Lee
William Morrow Cookbooks, 2019
Copy from publisher for blog tour
We're huge cookbook fans, with friends who love cookbooks. We purchase new releases for each other and spend time searching out-of-print ones that seem intriguing or have legendary promise.The usefulness of a cookbook really varies; I don't mind one that's mostly food porn -- great light and dramatic styling -- but my wife and our friends value a cookbook that helps a home cook recreate the specific meals shared. Especially when it comes to dishes and cuisines that depend on technique and unique ingredients.
This isn't to say that Lee's cookbook is unapproachable to novice cooks; in fact, Lee's opening breaks down -- with images -- her pantry necessities, the ingredients that some US home cooks might not be completely familiar with. The entire opening section of condiments is a gold mine, as are her egg-based recipes. There's really something for everyone here (even dog lovers: Lee shares her recipes for beloved dogs).
This cookbook is unforgettable, intimidating, and so real. It's really set the bar for future cookbooks, honestly: I want more cookbooks that are honest about the world we're in and the way food is part of that.