I try and be a polite considerate reviewer, ever mindful of the needs of my discerning reader. I tend to avoid authors from non-catering backgrounds with small publishers. I’d hate to say something negative about someone’s life’s work, their passion, their literary baby… so I don’t publish the review.
Here I was, once again, with the prospect of a culinary non-starter and I knew this one had some 650 pages. So the bad news might be that it’s another no-review; the good news might be that there was a lot of it!
Well, dear reader, you will have your review of What’s for Dinner? because I think it’s quite marvellous. This falls into the ‘sensible’ category of cookbooks, those that are practical and usable. You might think that every cookbook would have those aforementioned prerequisites: no, they don’t.
The author, Romilla Arber, is a hard-working mum of 4 children. She found that she was wasting time on numerous shopping trips because she was always missing that key ingredient to make a dinner for the family. She could browse numerous cookbooks but that would also take too much time so she wrote her own book that would give both her and others the tool to shop and cook in a timely fashion and avoid wasting time and ingredients. You can visit Romilla’s site and download shopping lists for each week’s recipes. (http://www.whatsfordinner.org.uk/shoppinglists) Tuck the list into your purse/wallet and all your troubles will be little ones – you still have to do the washing up.
This is the most amazing work for a first-time writer. To be honest, it would be an amazing work from even a veteran writer. What’s for Dinner? is a weighty tome but devoid of padding. Its text is clear, recipes to the point and the photographs attractive, but it’s the format that is appealing. Each day of the year has its recipe and those dishes represent the way most of us eat these days… or at least the way we should eat if we could cook. Hold that thought – more of that later.
The most difficult part of providing meals is just deciding what to cook. You can learn to cook and those techniques will serve you well, but you need to have an idea of what to cook for dinner. Your array of lavish and celeb-endorsed cookbooks are great bedtime reading but let’s be real, you need a battery of good recipes and someone to tell you that tonight’s the night for Smoked Haddock Pie …or they would be telling you that if this was the first week in April. Romilla Arber is the lady who will take the stress out of decision-making.
It’s no good having a cookbook that gives you a recipe for each day if you just don’t like the food. You won’t use the book and therefore it’s a waste of money. What’s for Dinner? has recipes that cover the whole spectrum of British taste. There is a liberal sprinkling of curries, recipes adapted from existing cookbooks and Romilla’s own family recipes. OK, so I wouldn’t eat the Liver and Sausage Burger (mental note: Don’t accept invitation to dinner on first Monday in January) but that’s all – one out of 365 recipes (plus extra recipes for treats each week) is pretty good going. All other dishes are delicious, quick, economical and I’d be happy to cook and eat all of them. There are few cookbooks that I would say that about, and to say it about such a large one is no faint praise.
Romilla has founded the Food Education Trust, a charity dedicated to educating adults and children in the basic skills of cooking. All proceeds from the sale of “What’s for Dinner?” will go to the Food Education Trust and will provide home economics-style classes to both adults and children as well as supplying necessary cooking equipment to schools.
You are reading this review so you are obviously interested in cooking. Glance around any supermarket and you will see, usually, young women with perhaps a couple of kids and a shopping trolley piled high with high-fat, high-sugar pre-prepared foods. If this lady knew how to cook then she could save money and feed her family better. Cooking is a life skill and one of the most important ones. Yes, it’s a skill that anyone can learn. You don’t need chef’s whites and an Aga to turn out good meals. I wholeheartedly support anything that promotes cooking at any level.
What’s for Dinner? is a book you’ll buy for yourself because it’s a good, solid cookbook. But consider it as a gift for anyone you know who would like to eat better but professes to not having enough time. This is outstanding value for money.
Cookbook review: What’s for Dinner?
Author: Romilla Arber
Published by: St. Christopher’s Publishing
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018