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How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food Hardcover – September 10, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next," says British food writer Nigella Lawson. "It's about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat." Lawson is not a chef, but "an eater." She writes as if she's conversing with you while beating eggs or mincing garlic in your kitchen. She explains how to make the basics, such as roast chicken, soup stock, various sauces, cake, and ice cream. She teaches you to cook more esoteric dishes, such as grouse, white truffles (mushrooms, not chocolate), and "ham in Coca-Cola." She gives advice for entertaining over the holidays, quick cooking ("the real way to make life easier for yourself: cooking in advance"), cooking for yourself ("you don't have to belong to the drearily narcissistic learn-to-love-yourself school of thought to grasp that it might be a good thing to consider yourself worth cooking for"), and weekend lunches for six to eight people. Don't expect any concessions to health recommendations in the recipes here--Lawson makes liberal and unapologetic use of egg yolks, cream, and butter. There are plenty of recipes, but the best parts of How to Eat are the well-crafted tidbits of wisdom, such as the following:

  • "Cook in advance and, if the worse comes to the worst, you can ditch it. No one but you will know that it tasted disgusting, or failed to set, or curdled or whatever."

  • On the proper English trifle: "When I say proper I mean proper: lots of sponge, lots of jam, lots of custard and lots of cream. This is not a timid construction ... you don't want to end up with a trifle so upmarket it's inappropriately, posturingly elegant. A degree of vulgarity is requisite."

  • "Too many people cook only when they're giving a dinner party. And it's very hard to go from zero to a hundred miles an hour. How can you learn to feel at ease around food, relaxed about cooking, if every time you go into the kitchen it's to cook at competition level?"

--Joan Price --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


"How to Eat was in many ways a breakthrough. With the confident air of Elizabeth David, she laid out what seemed every view possible on how she eats, including when she is dieting and when she is eating alone, and complimented it with hundreds of appealing and accessible recipes.... Some of her best recipes...are written as suggestions within the text. How to Eat is full of them." (The New York Times, January 9, 2002) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471257508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471257509
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have a special shelf for cookbooks in my living room...right next to the kitchen, as should be. For some reason, "How to eat" by Nigella Lawson, has been lying around the floor in my bedroom, or on the sofa in the living room, or wherever else apart from the kitchen, for the last couple of years since I bought it. What I'm trying to say is that this book is not just a simple cookbook, but more a description of the pleasure of good eating, & of preparing good food for yourself & for people you love.
On the other hand, the actual recipes (at least the ones I've tried so far, which are quite a few) seem to work, even from the first time you try them. I mention this because I've heard & read all sorts of comments about whether N.Lawson's recipes work or not. Maybe this is because Nigella Lawson has become a celebrity in England--imagine: she writes well, cooks well, & to top all that, she's beautiful too! How can you beat that? This is why 2 camps seem to have emerged--a "pro-Nigella" camp & an "anti-Nigella" camp!! This is all ridiculous, of course. The point is that Nigella Lawson has written, at least in my opinion, one of the best cookbooks of recent years. Down to earth, with good & long-winded explanations, written in a direct, friendly style, with such love for good food that even reading the book makes you want to rush to the kitchen & start creating a feast. "How to eat" is about comfort-eating at its best, & for me at least, it serves as comfort-reading too...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book in the spring of 2000 and I have literally never put it down. Its spine is broken, its pages are dirty, and it is falling apart. It can take a lot love, strain, abuse and argument.

That said, when was the last time you had a really great teacher? This is probably the best and the most important cookbook that has been published in the last decade (the last big one, for me, was Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso's New Basics). Nigella inspired me. Obviously, she knows how to make and serve superb food. But she can also write, in a voice that is straightforward, simple, and direct; and she makes you want to cook.

Her credo is directed toward those of us who eat well and also struggle in the kitchen at home: we are a generation of cooks who have been cowed in the kitched by "too much cheffiness," the endemic fussiness of restaurant food; and the subsequent intimidation we experience from professional chefs and food celebrities (clearly she wrote this before she became a superstar). Instead of trying to replicate restaurant food, she argues, we should consider the distinction between how we eat at home and how we eat when we go out. This book directs itself toward how we eat at home. And her answer is simple: make what you want to make, in the time that you're allowed to do it. Therefore, this book is organized by time and convenience, rather than by region or category. You get whole (albeit limited) menus, rather than exhaustive descriptions of one regional category or another.

I have probably cooked every recipe in this book and (like one of the previous reviewers) I have some of Nigella's recipes permanently under my belt--alas, in more ways than one.
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Format: Paperback
Okay. So I had heard of Nigella Lawson and had been meaning to buy a cookbook or two of hers, especially Domestic Goddess. I finally got around to it, and decided to get this one as well, because I thought, frankly , that the price was right (it's cheaper on UK site, if you don't mind making the conversions from grams to ounces - not brain surgery)and it might have a couple of good recipes.
Well, I was surprised at how much I really love this cookbook. It is like a cooking bible. I have over 100 cookbooks, so I do not say this in jest. I love the way that the book is organized and sectioned off, from dishes for solo or duo diners, to dishes that are lowfat and food that can be cooked with children. It is really cleverly designed. The recipes range from elaborate dishes, to the roast asparagus that I prepared the day that I got the book. She writes in a very chatty style which is like having a mom or sister or friend in the kitchen with you, sharing her secrets. This cookbook is awesome. You have to get it!!!
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By A Customer on March 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I bought this book for its low-fat section (or "Temple Food", as the author calls it) and its warm, conversational tone. I've ended up cooking from all parts of it, whether I'm whipping together something after work for myself or a posh "impressing my friends" meal for six on a Saturday night. Although I've been a life-long fan of 'good food', this is the best book I've used for taking 'real life' - whether it's kids, work, diet or special occasions - into consideration. It's like cooking with a friend in the kitchen, and for a Londoner like me (where kitchens are too small to accomodate more than one person) that's a fine recommendation!
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Format: Paperback
In direct contrast to books that make you feel like there's only one way to cook, this one puts you at ease with the concept of cooking, and converses you through the recipes. The tone is warm and accessible, as the author assumes the results of your efforts will be enjoyed in the company of friends, loved ones, small children and good conversation.
I'm already very comfortable in the kitchen and with improvisational recipes, but the book is so engaging and well-written, with just enough of a hip, British tone, that it makes the simple seem adventurous and the adventurous seem simple. It made me want to try every recipe.
With great sections on basics (like stock, roast chicken, sweet pastry dough, vinaigrette, etc.), making ahead and feeding kids, the book has tons of recipes and organizational "tips" that help seamlessly integrate the life-affirming and theraputic act of cooking good food with the essential role of mealtime as part of a good life well-lived.
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