We have been studying each other for months. Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cookbook was obviously bullying the other thin cookbooks on the shelf with its 768 pages. It was big, and it provoked me. I knew that half of the ingredients named in it were impossible to find in Venice, or anywhere else in Italy. I was aware that I would never EVER found puffin meat. Despite, or maybe because of it, it attracted me from the beginning. Its canvas cover, the suggestive pictures, the title. You know how this story ends: I bought it.
And it has been a very good choice. Nilsson’s oeuvre is not only a cookbook, but a dictionary of anthropological behaviors, culinary traditions, philology and history of the North. Winter is coming, so be prepared and buy this wonderful book. I’ll give you five reasons to do it.
- It offers a comprehensive perspective on Nordic Cuisine: as Nilsson points out from the very beginning, “[t]o write a book like this is not only impossible, its doesn’t make sense”. The difficulty lies in the fact that there isn’t a “Nordic” cuisine, but a Swedish, Danish or Icelandic one. It’s like writing a cookbook on European cuisine. See what I mean? Despite this fact, Nilsson succeeded in catching the spirit of Nordic home cooking traditions. In The Nordic Cookbook, he highlights the aspects that tie Nordic cultures together, while showing how they differ.
- It enriches the recipes with breathtaking pictures: and if you’re a cookbook maniac as I am, you know how important this fact is. From the fjords of the Faroe Islands to the Guillemot eggs, Nilsson pictures the natural surroundings and the warmth of Nordic kitchens. The next step is booking a flight to Stockholm.
- It’s much more than a cookbook: it’s an essay on the history, cultures and traditions of an entire region. For each ingredient, Nilsson gives details about its production: when and where it grows, how they produce it, how they cook it. For each recipe, you’ll find several variations and stories about them. This book is rich and inspirational.
- Nordic Cuisine rules: do you know Noma, right? Well, there’s not much else to say about the value of Nordic cuisine. It’s good, very good. This book gives us a chance to start practicing with new ingredients and cooking techniques. The recipes are quite simple to make and they offer a brand new perspective on food. You’ll never look at salmon or bread in the same way.
- It’s simple and accessible: and well organized, too. Despite the huge amount of recipes and anecdotes, Nilsson’s The Nordic Cookbook is very simple to use and it includes a rich glossary. No more chaotic leafing through: you will find gravlax or Finnish beetroot soup in a second.