Gay Bilson's PLENTY

I am a big fan of Charlotte Wood's unique cookbook/essay collection/memoir Love and Hunger.
One of the books that Charlotte mentions admiringly is Gay Bilson's groundbreaking 2004 book, Plenty. This is a book that is almost impossible to categorise, an exquisitely beautiful object in its own right that ranges across so many genres that I dare not attempt to pigeonhole it. Suffice to say it is a reflection on a lifelong love of food, its preparation and its eating, and it is a book I turn to regularly.

Plenty is filled with love and warmth, reflecting Bilson, one of Australia's most legendary restaurateurs, and her homely philosophy. Whether it's making custard, serving an omelette or discussing celebrity chefs, Bilson's take is unique and tempered by a genuine understanding of the importance of food and its appreciation at an emotional, intellectual and even spiritual level.

It's funny, but when I first read Plenty, back when it was first released, I was in much the same conflicted reltaionship with food and its preparation that I was when I first read Charlotte's book. I think some of us need reminding that food is not an enemy, but nor should it be a fetish. It is a necessity, a field in which we can exercise love, compassion and a genuine creativity. Bilson reminds us of the grand and peculiar Western engagement with food and its preparation, reflecting that such a relationship does not come easily to Anglo-Saxon culture, leaving us reliant on a series of historical "experts" like Elizabeth David to give us permission to enjoy the acts of cooking and eating.

I have been inspired in re-reading, too, to be slightly more eccentric, like the wonderful cast of friends and inspirations that Bilson writes about in her beautiful book. People who send birds' nests through the mail and quibble over the consistency of apple jellies. And I have resolved, once again, to delight in the simplest of things, in cauliflower and tripe and braised ox tongue and things that have been forgotten in our quest to impose glamour upon cooking.

Plenty makes the perfect companion to Love and Hunger, and I urge you to seek out a copy. Whether you love simple food or fine dining, you will be catered for in this wonderfully eccentric and constantly fascinting book about food, cooking, literature and life.


Dianne said…
I agree. I loved this book when it first came out. Will have to re-read. One of the first things that endeared me to Charlotte Wood's Love & Hunger was her reference to Plenty & Elizabeth David ... just love.

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