In Lateral Cooking (Bloomsbury, Oct.) British cookbook author Segnit lays out how one dish can lead to another, and another.
How do your cookbooks differ from others?
The Flavour Thesaurus is the only book that examines flavour pairings one by one. Lateral Cooking is unique in that it treats recipes as flexible ideas, then joins them up into a sort of branching genealogy of food.
How did the The Flavour Thesaurus lead to Lateral Cooking?
In the process of writing The Flavour Thesaurus, I constantly needed to adapt recipes in order to test unusual flavor combinations. In retrospect, what would have made this far quicker and easier was a book of flexible starting points for classic dishes—ice cream, say, or risotto, sponge cake, breads. In lieu of it, I started to keep a file of notes. Eventually it dawned on me that these notes might be of interest to other cooks. Eight years later—after a lot of research and testing—the notes became Lateral Cooking.
What’s a series of recipes in Lateral Cooking that especially surprised you, and how?
I was surprised by how easily the starting-point recipes joined up in the bread, custard, and nut continuums. In practical terms, this meant the reader could quickly learn to make many of the dishes by heart. For 20 years I was a recipe robot, a Stepford cook, largely because my culinary education came from glossy cookbooks. British food one night, curry the next, Mexican after that; I followed instructions and learned nothing. The continuums helped me become the intuitive, instinctive cook I always wanted to be. Not only is this personally very satisfying, but it also means a lot less food is wasted in our household.
How do you think the average home cook would approach your cookbooks?
It’s hard to say precisely how best they can be put to use, mainly because there are so many different ways of using them. Many readers have appreciated the cooking-theory side to them—as per Harold McGee’s work, or Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Others read them as they might read a novel, as they both contain what I hope is a very moreish mix of culinary history, kitchen science, and personal anecdote. And of course they’re both full of delicious recipes, so people might even cook from them.