A Curious Absence of Chickens is ‘a journal of life, food and recipes from Puglia’. On the cusp of her 60th birthday, renowned British food writer Sophie Grigson made the life-changing decision to relocate permanently from her home in Oxford to the small town of Candela in Puglia in southern Italy. In 10 chapters, the book covers a period of just over a year from June 2019 to Autumn 2020 and explores the culture, history and geography of the region all through the prism of food, documented in short essays and recipes. And that title? Grigson says you won’t find chicken on a restaurant menu in Puglia which she attributes to the fact that, traditionally in the region ‘a laying chicken was just too precious to kill off’.
The author is Sophie Grigson (daughter of legendary food writer Jane Grigson) who has written more than 20 books and has presented nine TV series for various British broadcasters.
You should buy A Curious Absence of Chickens for the carefully collated and curated collection of mostly traditional Puglian recipes (none of which are pictures, the only illustrations in the book are Kavel Rafferty’s charming drawings) including polpette di carne (meatballs); bombette (thinly sliced pork shoulder rolled with pancetta, parsley and cheese; ciambotto (fish stew with squid, chillies and tomatoes) and ciceri e tria (a dish from Salento in the south of Puglia of chickpeas cooked with cherry tomatoes and pasta and topped with fried pasta strips).
Although the book stems from a personal life choice, don’t expect Grigson to give too much away about herself in the book, which is more a journalist exploration of the regions food culture (and an excellent one at that) than traditional memoir.
Suitable for: For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars
Buy this book
A Curious Absence of Chickens by Sophie Grigson
£20, Headline Home
This book was longlisted for the Andre Simon Food Award. Read more here.