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Feast: Food that Celebrates Life Hardcover – 2001
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If you consider eating with friends and family a joyful, indulgent celebration chances are you love a good feast. And who better to carefully guide you through the daunting task of preparing that Feast than the domestic goddess herself Nigella Lawson. Written in the tradition of Nigella Bites and How to Eat, Feast is a cookbook for the sensualist that wants to eat very well, but also wants to spend time enjoying the company of their guests instead of struggling with the creation of the meal. What sets Lawson apart is not that she's a good cookbook writer, but a strong writer period. Similar to her other books, Nigella's Feast is presented as part personal memoir, part educational, and part recipe presentation. There is a nice blend of occasions including the obvious (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Easter), a few culturally specific ones (Rosh Hashanah, Georgian Feast, and Venetian Feast), feasts for kids, for vegetarians, and an elegant cocktail party. Each chapter begins with an overview of that particular "Feast." Generally, there is a personal story and experience told, an overview of the cultural importance of the feast, and a description of foods that are associated with each occasion. Impressively, every recipe begins with a personal anecdote giving that impression Nigella didn't just throw it in the book, but is experienced with the recipe and has used it with success. Take her twist on the decadent Chocolate Guinness Cake for example: "I wanted to make a cream cheese frosting to echo the pale head that sits on top of a glass of stout. It's unconventional to add cream but it makes it frothier and lighter which I regard as aesthetically and gastronomically desirable." Who can argue? The cake is to die for. So next time you need to prepare a dinner party let the goddess be your guide, and remember: Keep the preparation simple, use easily available ingredients, and take time to enjoy your guests and your meal. Feast may not be the most advanced cookbook you will own, but if you want to create excellent food with relative ease in a short amount of time, you can not beat Nigella. --Rob Bracco
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "Cooking has many functions, and only one of them is about feeding people," writes Lawson in a cookbook that makes the preparation of Thanksgiving, Christmas and other feasts seem so approachable and richly rewarding that it may coax even hardcore cynics or cowards to give roast turkey with all the trimmings a try. For starters, there is Lawson's star quality. "When we go into a kitchen, indeed when we even just think about going into a kitchen, we are both creating and responding to an idea we hold about ourselves, about what kind of person we wish to be." The person that Lawson has demonstrated a wish to be while cooking on her TV show Nigella Bites and in her cookbooks (How to Be a Domestic Goddess, etc.) is a woman in full, alive in body and mind.Lawson has always playfully gloried in the erotic possibilities of cooking. She has always proclaimed herself an eater rather than a chef, but what she is really is a marvelous, funny food writer for our pressured times. She knows exactly how to balance her relish of the earthy with just the right twist of smarty-pants, Oxford-inflected wit. Explaining, for example, why she now chooses to bake stuffing in a terrine, she hastens to note that while she is "perfectly happy with my arm up a goose as I ram it with compacted sauerkraut, or whatever the occasion demands, I find turkey-wrangling just one psycho-step too far. The bird is too heavy, the cavity too small, and the job is just too tragi-comic to be managed alone and after all that Christmas wrapping, too." Lawson knows how to make her readers fall in love (or at least in lust) with her.Readers will come away from this book with a sense of what she thinks is worth loving. Along with her recipes for Christmas pudding or her "amplification" of her mother's green beans (involving "vicious amounts of lemon"), Lawson teaches what is primal and timeless about feasting. "I am not someone who believes that life is sacred, but I know it is very precious," she writes in a final section about funeral feasts that describes Mormon potatoes and Jewish eggs, comfort food to remind the bereaved "that life goes on, that living is important." She ends the book with Rosemary Remembrance Cake in honor of her grandmother Rosemary (and anybody else who happens to have read Shakespeare and knows that rosemary is for remembrance). Lawson shows that creating a feast doesn't just nourish the body and the mind—it creates an even more interesting self that also has a heart, whose function is remembering. 150 color photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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This book is broken into occasions rather than seasons or ingredients - Thanksgiving & Christmas, New Year, Meatless Feasts, Valentine's Day, Easter, Passover, Breakfast, Kitchen Feasts, Kiddiefeast, Cut-out Cookies, Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame, A Georgian Feast, Eid, Ultimate Feasts, Hallowe'en, Rosh Hashanah, A Venetian Feast, Festival of Lights, Partytime, Midnight Feast, Wedding Feast, Funeral Feast ( somber I know but the food is actually very appropriate and having herself lose her mother, sister and first husband to cancer, Nigella is still living life and making the best of what she has) so no matter what one celebrates they can find something good in this super large volume. I have to admit that I use this daily and don't wait for special occasions.
Feast is probably her biggest ( thickest) book to date, and I made some good things from it. Let me tell you, the Pumpkin Cheesecake (on page 68 ) was my first cheesecake and no only was it ridiculously easy it turned out so good I was shocked I made it myself. There was a suggestion for Butterscotch sauce on the page to pour on top, I made it as well ( gotta love the pairing suggestions) and the combination was just divine. The sauce would also go well on something like an apple and macadamia nut crumble or anything thatis sweet.
Gingerbread muffins on page 91 were so warm and cozy I make them in cold weather to keep the chill of, the trouble is stopping at one. If you want your house to smell like a home, make this!
Roast Loin of pork with caraway, lemon and garlic - spicy fragrant, nothing ordinary about this simple to make dinner, makes great leftovers as the rub on top intensifies.
Chicken Pot Pie - I guarantee that after this one no one will be shopping for it in the frozen section of their supermarket, flaky dough, creamy hot center, lost of peas, ham and chicken in sauce, the only caution is not burning the tongue as it's hard not to gobble up.
There's even Muttar Paneer - an excellent Indian dish, makes me feel silly for ever thinking it was hard to make. Now I can control the ingredients and how much salt and fat goes into it, one can make a healthy lunch out of an exotic staple after all.
This book has everything, I don't know how this woman thinks it all up, but she makes these recipes and writes about them, she feeds them to her children and friends, real people are involved into bringing this book to life and it shows.
- Kasia S.
One let down was the recipe for the old fashioned chocolate cake. While it looked yummy when I baked it, it came out a little dry. Was worried about that when I noticed the very thick batter. Guess I will have to experiment with the recipe a little more...it was easy to make, though.
I made the cake a second time and substituted olive oil for the butter and 2 spoons of Hellman's mayo for the sour cream because I was out of the proper ingredients and the cake still turned out fantastic. FANTASTIC.
I caught her new show just as she was starting this recipe so I saved the last half of her show on dvr and it is still on my dvr so I can have it playing whenever I make another loaf. A reviewer on another cookbook wrote that this other tv cook did not ever give measurements on her tv show so that one would have to buy her books but upon reflection, I have never bought a tv cook's books who did NOT give measurements on their shows. Unconsciously, I seem to be less interested in finding the books of those handful of tv cooks who don't give measurements and watching their shows is just vegging out in front of the tv set. The best tv cooks get you out of your seat and into the kitchen. I never did that watching Nigella Bites but I bought three of her cookbooks after catching that half-episode of Feast even though Feast does recycle some recipes from the other two books. The perfect success of the cake made me believe in Nigella. There are just too many cooks with books with similar recipes to know what to buy and a search on Amazon will show that every five years, the same ideas and themes get recycled. Letting the consumer test drive the product brings in hesitating bystanders like me.
p.s. I just made the chocolate gingerbread and it is very good so long as it is not overcooked.