Harvard Book Store welcomes food writer NIKI SEGNIT—the award-winning author of The Flavor Thesaurus—for a discussion of her latest book, Lateral Cooking: One Dish Leads to Another.
Niki Segnit used to follow recipes to the letter, even when she’d made a dish a dozen times. But as she tested the combinations that informed The Flavor Thesaurus, she detected the basic rubrics that underpinned most recipes. Lateral Cooking offers these formulas, which, once readers are familiar with them, will prove infinitely adaptable.
The book is divided into twelve chapters, each covering a basic culinary category, such as “Bread,” “Stock, Soup & Stew,” or “Sauce.” The recipes in each chapter are arranged on a continuum, passing from one to another with just a tweak or two to the method or ingredients. Once you’ve got the hang of flatbreads, for instance, then its neighboring dishes (crackers, soda bread, scones) will involve the easiest and most intuitive adjustments. The result is greater creativity in the kitchen: Lateral Cooking encourages improvisation, resourcefulness, and, ultimately, the knowledge and confidence to cook by heart.
Lateral Cooking is a practical book, but, like The Flavor Thesaurus, it’s also a highly enjoyable read, drawing widely on culinary science, history, ideas from professional kitchens, observations by renowned food writers, and Segnit’s personal recollections. Entertaining, opinionated, and inspirational, with a handsome three-color design, Lateral Cooking will have you torn between donning your apron and settling back in a comfortable chair.
“It is hard to convey just what a staggering achievement Lateral Cooking is . . . Despite its encyclopedic reach, it is conversational in tone and beautifully written. I can lose myself in it any time, from any page, and you could cook from it over a whole lifetime, and still be learning.” ―Nigella Lawson
“Segnit is a brilliantly clever cook who sometimes seems to have eaten every great dish in the world, but the real joy is her exuberant voice, which feels like listening to a witty friend.”
―The Sunday Times (UK)
“[Segnit] shows, more effectively than any other cookery writer to date, how one thing in the kitchen leads to another . . . In the end, the cookbooks that teach you the most are the rare ones, experimental or not, that are so well written that you find yourself reading them greedily on a perpetual loop. Lateral Cooking is one of them.” ―Times Literary Supplement
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.