Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Big Fat Duck Cookbook

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook
by Heston Blumenthal
$157.50 at
$200.00 at Barnes & Noble

The only thing I really truly wanted from Santa for Christmas 2008 was Heston Blumenthal's The Big Fat Duck Cookbook. My birthday/Christmas package arrived from my mom containing only cashmere socks (yay) and a Christmas tree ornament. I almost sobbed. It might have been the hormones. The package containing my heart's desire arrived seperately, two days later, handed to me by my silently cursing postman.

This is not just a cookbook. Blumenthal is the chef/owner of The Fat Duck restaurant in the Berkshires in England. His is a master of molecular gastronomy, and The Fat Duck is one of only three restaurants in the UK and Ireland that has 3 Michelin stars. In 2005 it was named the World's Best Restaurant by Restaurant Magazine, Best Restaurant in 2001 by Michelin, and 2nd Best Restaurant in 2008 (only behind El Bulli) again by Restaurant Magazine. The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is a massive tome that will set you back between $150 and $200, and will hurt your back if you don't get a cart to carry it out to the car. It weighs 13+ lbs. My husband has become frustrated with where to put the giant thing, and recently hid it behind the amplifier in the living room. Why I am not frustrated by the presence of the amplifier in the living room is another question, in which the answer to lies the secret of our marriage.

I think of this book as having three distinct parts. The first part is about Blumenthal's history and background, and the history of the restaurant. This part is peppered with whimsical portraits of Blumenthal that reference both his visage and dishes he is famed for.

The middle bit of the book is recipes...complicated, wonderful, detailed recipes with some ingredients that are hard to get hold of and some that I have never heard of.

I was considering making the cauliflower risotto last night, but used this season's chest cold as an excuse to take a nap and dream about said risotto instead.

The photography and artwork is stunning. This is far less a cookbook and far more a mass produced art installation lurking heavily about my house.

The sometimes ambitious cook inside me wants to make these recipes.

The debaucherous diner in me simply wants to eat at The Fat Duck. Sometime soon. A pipe dream, at this moment.

The last third of the book is very scientific. Even the recipes delve a little into geometry...

I love this diagram showing the organization and construction of the Black Forest Gateau. It's both beautiful and specific.

Diagram of the location of our taste buds and where the universal we pick up different flavors and tastes on our tongue.

He gets into how the chemical messengers in our brain communicate to different parts of our bodies what we are experiencing physically.

These anatomical diagrams are prettier than any in current California biology textbooks...this one discusses the regions of the brain involved in decoding scents.

I have spent several afternoons with The Big Fat Duck Cookbook. It is only a matter of time before I pick up my spatula and take out my saucepan. I hope.


Jenny said...

Crazy..I had not heard of this book. I received El Bulli cookbook this year, and had a similar experience. It took me some time to decide where to keep has it's own special spot in the dining room, where I get to see it every day. I enjoyed the read, it is similarly laid out. But I will not attempt to make square, freeze dried reconstituted grapes with mango air "bites" for my next dinner party. I just want to eat at El Bulli, and now, Fat Duck, before I die.

Food, she thought. said...


You know Jose Andres of the Bazaar cooked under Ferran Adria? I suggest we cook for one another out of our mutually fabulous cookbooks...I am sure there is something in ElBulli that is accessible for the home chef! There is plenty in Big Fat Duck...cannot wait for an excuse!

TonyC said...

wow. I bought myself El Bulli AND Alinea for Xmas but .. you win!

looks awe inspiring.

Food, she thought. said...

Tony: You know you want it.

burumun said...

That is by far the.most.gorgeous.cook book I've ever seen. I also have never heard of it (but then again, I don't usually buy/look at cookbooks).
Food porn ... (no, sorry. Gastroerotica)

Food, she thought. said...


Did you just coin the term Gastroerotica? It is by far my new most favorite term.

mattatouille said...

I need to get this book. The food photos in Alinea, while good, aren't quite "stunning"

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PengPeng彬彬 said...

have you tried any of the recipes yet?? i got my bf this book for x'mas last year and he's hardly touched it for fear of 'ruining' it :P

Food, she thought. said...


I haven't cooked a thing from it yet. I have been focused on cooking from the Nobu cookbook. Your bf and I both need a cookbook holder/ of those plexiglass things that protects the pages from splashes while you cook.