NOMA Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine
By René Rezepi
A book review by Franz Scheurer
I’m not sure if anyone is really qualified to review the world’s top chef’s cookbook, a tome of René’s philosophy, a diary of his trip in search of something culinary extraordinary and an illustration of what ingredients he uses and how he puts his dishes together. Recipes are aplenty but I can’t help but feel that they are secondary to the man that is the culinary enigma of our time.
At the very front of the book is a map of the Nordic region and just as well as there are lots of geographically challenged readers out there.
The book is divided into:
Milk Skin with Grass
The Perfect Storm
Portrait of a Nordic Chef
Time and Place
The Weather Recipes
The Raw Materials
Everyone at Noma
Followed by a glossary and an index.
You really do have to read the first three chapters as it will help you understand what makes Rezepi tick. I love the diary, which basically describes, in minute detail, the period in August of 2003 from a Monday to the Sunday the following week (so 2 weeks) of Rezepi’s first voyage of discovery in search of new produce. The trip led the young Chef to the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland and to quote: “I was twenty-five years old, very green, but as full of enthusiasm as I am today”. We are all glad that he did decide to start writing a diary at that time as it really is documenting a point in Rezepi’s life and a point in time. It laid the foundation for the way Rezepi thinks, acts and cooks.
Once you reach Time and Place it gets a little less challenging from a reading point of view but a lot more challenging to imagine the flavours and textures of Rezepi’s dishes as a lot of ingredients simply aren’t available. You can’t help but wonder at the marvels of creation in this book. I’m blown away by the ‘Snowman’ on page 55, flabbergasted by the ‘White Currants and Gelled Cucumber Juice, Sweet Cicely and Hazelnut Milk’ on page 64 and I’m still shaking my head at the ‘Blueshell Mussels and Angelica with Veal Breast’ on page 81. I love the concept of having a description of the dishes at the start of the section, then full colour pages to show then in detail.
You have to be patient all the way to page 249 before you get to the recipe section, teaching you how these dishes are put together. This is not really a book for the amateur and it might not even be a book to cook from for the professional, but what it is, for both, is an incredible reference book on what can be done with simple (although hard to procure) items, specific to terroir. It’s an incredible journey and we’re privileged to be allowed to follow it.
This is a book you need to see, need to read, again and again and hopefully we will all be a little richer for this.
Published by Phaidon