I was sent a copy of Sophie Dahl’s (the granddaughter of the great Roland Dahl of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame) cookbook and dismissed it as another British quasi-vegetarian (no beef or pork) cook’s favourite recipes. It was short-sighted of me.
The truth is that Miss Dahl’s voluptuous delight is a love story about food and body image. It’s the story about the deep-seated drive to eat and to indulge. Sophie grew up around foodies and had the obsession that most curvy girls have towards sweets and comfort food. She came from that upper class British background that involved boarding schools, and trans-Atlantic holidays. I re-discovered it at the bottom of my book pile and dove in.
Now Sophie Dahl hasn’t had the life that I or any of my friends have had. Besides having a famous relative, she is obviously comes from a wealthy London family (the good teeth are a dead give away). At 18 in New York, she was discovered as an “in-between” model. Not big enough to be plus sized, but not the anorexic size 2 either. She was in fashion shoots all over the world, posed naked in Vogue, and did a memorable private shoot with Karl Lagerfield. Her advice from her agent was to not lose weight (but to stay off the junk food), wear a good bra,and always have red lipstick on.
She talks of living in Paris, eating ice cream out of the carton, and getting horribly sick in India. Through all of this she made peace with food. She honoured her roots with simple, exceptionally well prepared organic food and healed her body. Her foods involve eating clean foods, fresh air and having her body become what she needs. She organized her recipes by season – which is a nice change- and she cooks by mood, like most women. Although few would admit it.
Her recipes are easy (although with some obscure ingredients not typically found in North American cupboards), and her writing is intimate without sounding preachy. I loved her recipe for her flourless chocolate cake. And as a fellow blender enthusiast, her (the recipe for her father’s curried parsnip soup is a dream) soup and vegetable puree’s are very creative.
Now as a sort-of supermodel, British aristocracy and as someone still under 35 she hasn’t had it too hard. But her gentle understanding of her body and how she re-claimed it is a universal story. She walks every day, plants a garden, yoga 3 times a week, and replaced sugar with agave nectar (a low-glycemic syrup that comes from the cactus plant and has the taste of honey). Her other advice is “to avoid processed food, and if you eat bread, it was good and dense, whole grain bread. Learn to read labels, but not obsessively so.
I love her thoughts on what is and isn’t sexy.
“I have come across women who are self restricted and miserable. Starving is not sexy. It is bleeding gums, acrid breath, brittle bones, osteoporosis, infertility and complications. It saps and withers.
Sexy is inherent in a healthy appreciation of food, in having the energy to romp with your beloved, pick up your baby,cook dinner for friends, go for a run, or simply take a gentle walk in the market. Sexy is feeling sated, having options and feeling alive.”
A good read, and I stayed with it even during the hockey playoffs (go Detroit. I always root for the sexy, sexy Zetterberg). I don’t think it’s worth the almost $40 CND, but let me see if I can post the best recipes (with pictures of my attempts) at the sexy food section of my blog at [url]www.loveandlipstick.com[/url].