Author: Jamie Oliver
Date Published: 2001
When Jamie Oliver is mentioned people have extreme reactions. It seems that the world has a love/hate relationship with the chef. My sister has issues with the overabundance of the word ‘yeah’ in his tv shows, where as my mum seems to adore him (this is quite common; I have a theory that all mothers want him as a son in law).
This is Jamie Oliver’s third cooking book and the first of his we purchased. It was released during the phase of Jamie being marketed as ‘The Naked Chef’ (hence the title) and is separated into the following sections:
- Comfort Food
- Quick Fixes
- Kids Club
Like all celebrity chef books, the ‘Happy Days With The Naked Chef’ is not only selling recipes but also a lifestyle. The font is large and colourful, the writing is upbeat and personal. Jamie’s life is on show as the book is dominated by photos of him, family, mates and ‘Jools’ (the wife). He also refers to them a great deal in his essays.
The feel of the book is youthful and unprofessional – this turns out to be a double edged sword. The key is to whether you find this cute or annoying. I’m in between as I find his made up slang pretty grating, where as I love his cheeky food titles such as ‘Magnificient Roasted Monkfish’ and ‘The Easiest Sexiest Salad In The World’.
Jamie’s passion and quirkiness fuel the great ideas, but also the sometimes silly layout. One thing I found annoying was having a random image of Jamie’s life taking the place of a recipe photo. Though this does not happen often, I feel it shouldn’t happen at all (a part of selecting recipes and executing them properly is having an image as a guide). Recipe wording can be tricky to understand and the steps aren’t clearly separated into paragraphs. Occasionally ingredients are put into the recipe directions and marked with bold font as he refers to them. Though this is with smaller recipes, it makes things more difficult and I can’t help but wish he left them in a simple list.
Each of the above sections is followed by an explanation (short and sweet in some cases, where as others are dedicated more length). It seems that Jamie has a diet related mission with every one of his endevours and the main focus of the book is to get kids involved with cooking. His message is especially prevalent and mostly directed at England, but also includes countries that mainly eat a standard western diet.
‘Most importantly, cooking with your kids is not about making smiley faces on pizzas or baking hedgehog cookies and disguising food. Its about smelling, touching, creating, tasting, laughing and eating.’
Though some may not enjoy being ‘preached at’, I don’t see how an attitude of encouraging healthy eating and food knowledge can be a bad thing.
The backbone of this book are the recipes. They are superb. The focus is on good, easy to achieve flavours. Though there is a lot of influences by his travels to Australia, Asia, India and America, the surprising element of the book is the focus on classic British dishes such as ‘Toad In The Hole’. Jamie presents them as comfort food without it coming across as a sloppy go at nostalgia. The best recipe I have tried so far is the ‘Broccoli And Anchovy Orecchiette’ which has opened my eyes to the idea that the less flashy sounding dishes can taste the greatest. The ‘Smush Ins’ section (where kids can smush in random food like chocolate, peanut butter and grapes into Ice Cream) is fantastic and very clever. Jamie provides smush in-able food on a double page photo.
The photography is excellent and achieves the balance between scrumptious and stylish, without going to far into the modern style of cold over-perfection in food images (mum loves the pie photo on Page 21) .
Enjoyment of this book comes down to whether you like Jamie Oliver and buy into his outlook, or if you don’t, whether you can ignore that aspect. Ultimately, behind all the photography and essays is a brilliant body of great, unpretentious recipes from a passionate young chef.
♥♥♥ – 3/5