This is another remarkable book from those nice people at Haus Publishing. This is truly quality food writing, travel writing, poetic writing, and thoroughly absorbing and charming.
The author H M van den Brink isn’t famed for his food writing but he is nevertheless famed for writing. He published his first book in1993 but had huge success with On the Water in 1998 which was translated into numerous languages and won several literary prizes including the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
Spain Body and Soul isn’t a cookbook but it does have some delicious traditional recipes for dishes such as Chicken with Garlic, and Hazelnut Cake. It’s more a book about a Dutch journalist living in Spain and observing life and attitudes. H M van den Brink describes himself as an eater so he pays attention to meals, eating habits and culinary culture.
Perhaps the recipe for Bread with Tomato is the quintessential Spanish dish. It is, in truth, hardly a dish or a recipe but a flavourful preparation of soft and sun-drenched tomatoes crushed into a piece of bread. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt complete this little slice of simple gastronomic heaven.
I could fill pages with quotes from this superb volume. When writing of something as banal as Churros (long, thin, deep-fried doughnuts) H M van den Brink writes… “Eaten immediately, hot, they are like most sins: no less sinful in the heat of the moment than considered in hindsight, and in any case irresistible.” It’s enough to fill this writer with literary self-doubts and the urge to throw away her computer!
H M van den Brink paints marvellous landscapes with his words. Always well chosen, they describe scenery as well as could any travelogue. You’ll seek out the dishes he describes and thumb through a few of these pages as you sit in a cafe drinking a very small, very black coffee. If you are planning a trip to Spain then consider Spain Body and Soul as your companion.
Spain Body and Soul
Author: H M van den Brink
Published by: Haus Publishing
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018