Cooking the Books with Gilly Smith
Chetna Makan: Chetna's Indian Feasts
This week, Gilly's at the home of award-winning recipe writer, author and YouTuber, one of Bake Off’s most celebrated winners and mother of 2, Chetna Makan to talk about her new book, Chetna’s Indian Feasts.
But in this first episode of a special series this summer, we’re talking about food through the prism of matrescence, the raw ingredients which make up the heady mix of motherhood and provide the recipe for life. Like adolescence, matrescence shows us a picture of process, and with it an implicit understanding of what that means. Just as adolescents are always adults in training, so matrescents are mothers in training, and that never stops.
The word was coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael in 1973 to describe the experience of half the global population but which is barely known, barely discussed, barely acknowledged. On the contrary, we’re supposed to know it all the minute we give birth. It’s estimated that perinatal mental health problems alone cost the NHS and social services around £1.2 billion annually. Imagine the impact on families and wider society of way post natal mental health issues – the massive lows that come with the roller coaster of emotions of motherhood – at all ages and stages.
The aim of this Cooking the Books series is to introduce the word into the national conversation. Chetna is the first of four writers, mothers, matrescents who have much to say on the subject throughout the whole of August. For more information and where to get help, click here.
Check Gilly's Substack each week for Extra Bites from each guest.
And if you'd like support with your own matrescence, click here for information
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13. Alexina Anatole: Bitter32:14This week, Gilly is talking to Alexina Anatole about the least pleasant of our five tastes: bitter. Or is it?Alexina's series of cookbooks on the five tastes: Bitter, Sweet, Salty, Sour and Umamia is a step-by-step exploration of flavour, and an impressive start to a what looks like a masisve career for this bright young spark who swapped the trading floor for Masterchef in 2020. In the first book, Bitter, she sets out to tame bitterness, showing us how to soothe it with dairy, balance it with sweetness and distract it with acidity. But Gilly quickly became much more interested in this super-driven polymath of a woman who has everything food TV needs right now.Pop over to Gilly's Substack to hear more of Alexina's hidden talents.
12. Russell Norman: Brutto33:16This week, Gilly is with Russell Norman, the award-winning restaurateur, writer and broadcaster who brought Italy to the British high street, first through Polpo, the book and chain of Venetian style restaurants which gave us small plate food culture, and now Brutto, the Florentine trattoria next to London’s Smithfield market.Brutto, the book, is about much more than the recipes of the restaurant. It’s an ode to Florence where we find what Russell calls the 'ugly but beautiful' food that the Tuscan capital is really all about.Don't forget to head to Gilly's Substack to see what Russell has cooked up over on Extra Bites
11. Donal Skehan: Home Kitchen32:22This week, Gilly is talking about what home means to Irish TV chef, Donal Skehan.Donal has moved a lot in his massive career on TV, from Eurovision to Saturday Kitchen and on to Food Network in LA. Now, with wife Sofie and their two young boys, he’s come home to Ireland. His 11th cook book, Home Kitchen, is a meditation on home, nostalgia and who he is now as a food writer. Check Gilly's Substack for Extra Bites from Donal
10. Bee Wilson: The Secret of Cooking33:54This week, Gilly is with one of Britain’s very best food writers, the author of First Bite and The Way We Eat Now, Bee Wilson.After years of writing about the psychology and history of food, this is Bee’s very first cook book. It’s packed with recipes for an easier life in the kitchen, as the sub title suggests, but the Secret of Cooking is not just a treasure trove of simple dishes, but how food can heal, as Bee learnt from her own experience after her husband left her in the summer of 2020.Head to Gilly's Substack for Extra Bites from Bee
9. Anya Von Bremzen: National Dish34:52This week, Gilly is digging deeply into the construction of identtiy through the food with multi award-winning Russian writer Anya von Bremzen.National Dish is a fascinating book which explores how certain foods become the cultural signifiers of France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Mexico, and Turkey. Mixing academic rigour with chats at bars and cook ups in local kitchens, she stirs up a load of our assumptions, but does she find the answer?
8. Giulia Scarpaleggia: Cucina Povera31:15This week, while Gilly is talking about the roots of Italian cuisine, Cucina PoveraGiulia Scarpaleggia began her food writing career as a blogger and photographer before becoming one of the most respected writers on Italian food. Her book Cucina Povera is all about her respect for the inguity of peasant cooking which reveals the soul of Italian food at its best.Head to Gilly's Substack to hear why Giulia loves British food writers so much.
7. Julius Roberts: The Farm Table33:00This week, Gilly's with the king of Tik Tok, the idol of Insta and star of channel 5’s A Taste of the Country, Julius Roberts.His debut cook book The Farm Table is a beautifully written story of a young man following his dream from cheffing to farming, with goats who think they’re dogs, pigs begging for a tummy tickle and an idyllic walk through the seasons. An audience of 500k on both Instagram and Tik Tok has followed his insipring journey to find himself, while he’s become one of the most compelling advocates for modern British food and regenerative farming. Give that man a Netflix show, and he will save the planet. Head over to Gilly's Substack for an Extra Bite of Julius.
6. Diana Henry: Roast Figs, Sugar Snow35:07This week, Gilly is with one of Britain’s very best food writers, Diana Henry.The new edition of her 2005 book Roast Figs, Sugar Snow is a lyrical walk through the autumn leaves and winter wonderlands of her favourite food places in the world as she shares the delicious finds that have made her one of Britain’s most well-respected and award-winning food writers.It’s a book that makes you feel warmed to your bones. But Diana has been dogged by depression for years, and has faced some major life challenges recently, including cheating death. Gilly was fascinated in how she created such a work of joy, and the dichotomy of pleasure and pain.Head over to Gilly's Substack to find Diana's personal photos from her trips for Roast Figs, and to hear an early interview for The Write Songs which Gilly did with Diana in 2017.
5. Isabella Tree: The Book of Wilding30:26This week, Gilly is at Knepp with the queen of wilding, Isabella Tree.The Knepp estate is an extraordinary pioneering wilding project to restore nature which Isabella captured so beautifully in her 2019 book Wilding. Chris Packham called it ‘A poignant, practical and moving story of how to fix our broken land'. Now, The Book of Wilding breaks that story down into encyclopaedic form for everyone to refer to, however big or small their garden. And if you’d like more from Knepp, head over to Gilly's Substack to hear her 2019 interview with Isabella at Knepp where they were joined by that majestic red stag.