What’s the USP? Compiling 91 recipes that span a broad range of global cuisines, each dish in Eat Share Love comes with a story, a personal connection, and a reminder that food nourishes us in more ways than one.
Who wrote it? The book has been compiled by Kalpna Woolf, a former Head of Production at the BBC, whose previous cookbook offered up spicy food for slimming. Seven years ago she launched charity 91 Ways to Build a Global City, named after the number of languages spoken by residents in Bristol, where the organisation is based. 91 Ways hosts ‘regular community-focussed events’ to bring the residents of the city together while also ‘helping people to make better decisions about their nutrition and well-being’. It’s a fairly messy concept with its heart in the right place. Which could also be a pretty neat summation of the charity’s new cookbook.
Is it good bedtime reading? There’s absolutely loads to read here, so in a sense, this could be a wonderful book to read for pleasure. Each recipe is introduced by its contributor, with stories of family members, different cultures, and the wide array of lived experiences you’ll find in any built up area. Woolf herself shares her father’s story of moving to the UK. Elsewhere, Negat Hussein teaches the reader about Eritrean bun ceremonies, and Reena Anderson-Bickley reminisces about roadside picnics and aloo from a Thermos flask.
Unfortunately, the design of Eat Share Love is consistently over-crowded. In an effort to include everybody’s stories, the type is tiny, and often forced to share a page with the recipe itself. Snuggle down under the sheets to peruse the introductions, but make sure you have extra-strong reading glasses nearby.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The problem with a collaborative book is that, unless your editor is really on the ball, the quality of the writing can be incredibly inconsistent. I had a go at Maria’s Cypriot Antinaxto Krasato, supplied here by Athanasis Lazarides.
Lazarides describes his recipe as ‘written by an artisan, not a professional’, and it’s a good warning: the instructions read as though they are being given by a grandmother who is a little annoyed to have you in the kitchen with her. During the entire process we are given no distinct times or temperatures. Ingredients are listed in metric, but we’re told we can add more red wine more or less on our own personal whim. Credit to Lazarides, though, the end result was rich and moreish.
Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? To its credit, Eat Share Love manages to offer up an international array of recipes using ingredients that can almost entirely be sourced from your local supermarket.
What will I love? Though the globe-trotting means the book often feels as though it lacks any coherency or direction, it does uncover a fantastic selection of really interesting foods. There are some familiar dishes here, but many of the ideas were completely new to me. There’s nothing worse than an international cookbook that throws out the same ideas you’ve seen a dozen times before, and that’s not a problem in Eat Share Love.
What won’t I love? The design of the book is absolutely terrible. Pages are clogged up with photos of family members, leaving so little room for the recipes that everything is packed into dense word blocks. This is bad enough when you’re browsing an introduction, but can make missing an ingredient all too easy as well.
Also, that title: a personal gripe, maybe, but I prefer my cookbooks not to sound like something I might see on a fridge magnet at a garden centre, or hanging from the wall of a kitchen that is otherwise decorated entirely in shades of grey.
Killer recipes: Tara’s Kurdish Bamya, Guyanese Lamb Curry, Lah’meh Fil Meh’leh, Little Peach Cakes, Bayadera
Should I buy it? It’s tough to review anything with so much good intention behind it, but Eat Share Love is an imperfect collection that scatters through a few delicious treats. If you’ve money to spare, then there’s no harm in supporting what 91 Ways are doing. But if you’re looking for an intuitive cookbook that’s easy to read and navigate, you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Two stars
Buy this book: Eat Share Love by Kalpna Woolf
£22, Meze Publishing
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas
Eat Share Love has been shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards 2022