I felt that prickle of excitement that you get when you get your hands on a book that you know will be a friend in the kitchen for months and years to come.
Like the best food writing Five Quarters is also a form of travel writing, as it provides a taste of history, memoir and literate display. It is a form of utopian thinking too, you could argue. This is how we might live, it implicitly says. Or at least look at the pictures of how we might live. Why do we love cookery books? Because the best ones are about so much more. Rachel Roddy - like Yotam [Ottolenghi] and Nigel [Slater] - is writing about a sense of place, about culinary culture and culture in general. In short, she is writing about life. The nice pictures are just a bonus.
Roddy is a gifted storyteller, and a masterful hand with simple ingredients. She brings to life in mouthwatering detail her culinary love and daily discoveries from a life lived well, of Roman markets and full family tables.
This is the most wonderful cookbook, especially - though not exclusively - if you like really reading cookbooks, possibly in bed. Rachel Roddy is a marvellous writer, and her ruminations about living in Rome - about markets, pasta-cooking water, being unfaithful to her usual butcher, Jane Grigson, the old Jewish ghetto, letting the meatballs rest, her daily life and so on, are total heaven (also, excellent restaurant recommendations). What I especially like is that she sounds like a real, complicated-in-a-good-way, intelligent and forthright person, not some ninny going 'Ooh, I love Italy, me' while poncing about on a Vespa. She is proper. You feel like a friend is leading you by the hand, going 'Look at this, make this, and if you make it like this it will taste even better'. The recipes are great. The vast majority are simple, family-friendly things you or I could make for supper with minimum fuss, and everyone would pat their stomachs delightedly and go 'Man, that was unbelievably good'. Everything I've cooked has been delicious, unfussy, robust and somehow honest. More than once I've been surprised by the simplicity of the recipe and the complex deliciousness of the results. Very precise instructions, too. Plus, a beautiful-looking book, beautifully produced, which doesn't hurt.
Just looking at the juicy apricots on the cover of this recipe and memory-filled love letter to Rome is enough to transport you to Italia - land of delicious, superior, mouth-watering cuisine... Five Quarters illuminates the colourful experience of a year in her Italian kitchen where she cooked, ate and wrote, with her notes contributing to the book's 120 both Italian and British-influenced recipes.
This wonderful book, which came about as a result of an award-winning blog, charts a year of cooking in the tiny kitchen in her flat, shopping at local markets and writing about her culinary finds... an unputdownable book packed with the unpretentious home cooking, heady with the smells of Southern Italian markets.
Rachel Roddy's Five Quarters is by an English food blogger settled in Rome, who felt a natural affinity with the simplicity and resourcefulness of Roman cooking; this is a homage to the quarter in which she lives and the food of her neighbours.
The writing beautifully describes a quiet domestic life centred around her kitchen, while the photography by Roddy herself is reminiscent of Dutch interiors.
Unpretentious, unusual and delicious.
Five Quarters stands out as particularly considered and evocative...Impeccably researched and transportive, it's a proper read, rather than a quick flick.