When I’m having a bad day, I make a beeline to journalist Esther Walker’s Recipe Rifle blog – it never fails to make me snort with laughter. She writes about cooking and parenthood in a funny, sarcastic, feisty and totally unsentimental way. Telling people how things really are in her world, with no gloss or pretence, and letting rip when she’s in a bad mood, and ranting furiously when she’s just made a total cock-up of cooking dinner. It is a deliciously funny read. I like her because she gets cross. A lot. And swears heartily like a sailor.
I had a nice chat with Esther recently, and she was very honest about the fact that when she met her husband (Giles Coren, Times food critic) she couldn’t cook to save her life, and had to teach herself how to do the basics quickly, noting that his ex girlfriend used to make him macaroons from scratch (no pressure).
“When I met Giles, I thought ovens were for storage,” says Esther. “He didn’t marry me for food – I have long hair, big eyes, big boobs and loose morals. I thought it was adorable not being able to cook, however now I realise that it’s pathetic. My husband is terribly nice about my cooking, though, and is very helpful, saying stuff like ‘you just need to cook it for longer’.”
Not that Esther is a shit cook by any measure now. She has taught herself how to be a pretty darned good one, judging by all the delicious recipes on Recipe Rifle (eg Lamingtons! Cheese Scones!), and the instructions she gives with each one are all very honest, saying what works for her and what doesn’t, and how she has adapted or changed other peoples’ recipes to make them more straightforward.
“I’m not a terrible cook, but I’m not an instinctive one at all. I have learned how to make food quite nice now. It’s all about the recipe – modern celebrity chefs, such as Nigel Slater, make it look easy, but it’s a myth that cooking is easy and instinctive. It’s NOT – it’s like learning to drive or to spell.”
She adds: “The most important thing is that I try to make people feel that they’re not alone in my attitude to cooking and parenting. Parenting is incredibly lonely. You don’t know where you stand – and I don’t care what other people think. I approach everything with a mixture of hubris and overconfidence – it’s slapdash, I know, but the best way for me. I think I’m right all the time, but have massive crashes of confidence and behave like a slightly wayward idiot.”
The blog Recipe Rifle is full of droll moments, where Esther unburdens her soul, usually having a rant about how bloody hard it is to bring up children, how shit it feels to be heavily preggers, and how very annoying life can be. I chanced across a choice quote where a doctor tells Esther to stop giving her toddler Kitty so much milk:
“I meekly nodded and gave him my shy Princess Diana “okay” face, rather than snarling and mentally flicking him a V-sign like I do with everyone else.”
Ha ha ha ha ha! Don’t make her angry.
She launches her new e-book ‘The Bad Cook’ today, people, and you should totally download it, as it’s full of the best bits of her blog, plus some new and shiny recipes and ‘how-to’ guides. This is the book you need if you’re after no-nonsense survival tips for Christmas cooking, easy chocolate cakes, or just to learn how to avoid massive recipe fails. It contains lots of delightful swearing too – what’s not to love? Download it for just £1.99 here.