Cookbook review: Love in the language of food

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘A Table Full of Love: Recipes to Comfort, Seduce, Celebrate and Everything in Between’ by Skye McAlpine (Bloomsbury, $35)

Food writers are prone to waxing poetic about the joy of cooking for those you love. Few go to the lengths of defining what they actually mean by those words as Skye McAlpine.

Take her story about Sue’s Magical Chicken Soup — the seed that planted the idea of writing a whole book about “the tangle of emotions and memories we collect over a lifetime of eating, cooking and being cooked for.”

That soup, she writes, takes her back to when her mother was hospitalized with cancer and refusing all food. Nothing worked, until her friend Sue brought her a batch of homemade soup. One spoonful at a time, she began to eat again. Eight years later, her mom remains convinced Sue’s soup saved her life —as much for the comfort it brought as for whatever nutrients it might have possessed.

Its six-ingredient recipe is the first one she shares in “A Table Full of Love: Recipes to Comfort, Seduce, Celebrate, and Everything Else in Between” (Bloomsbury, $35.) The subtitle alludes to the chapter titles, which also include Nourish, Spoil, and Cocoon. Despite the unconventional structure, this lovely volume is designed to be as practical to use as it is seductive to read.

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Recipes place more importance on “intuition and thoughtfulness over execution.” She encourages shortcuts “with almost evangelical fervor,”as illustrated in recipes such as Salmon en Papillote for one, Nutella Tiramisu, and a most delicious salad I made with a leftover rotisserie chicken breast, Greek yogurt, peas, mint, and a hefty spoonful of za’atar seasoning.

A classics scholar and author of two previous cookbooks, McAlpine was born in London and grew up in Venice, and today divides her time between the two cities. Her Australian husband and two sons are the primary recipients of her culinary efforts, though many other friends and family members get credit in these pages for motivating her into the kitchen.

In serving them these recipes, she also reaps a reward for herself. “Because if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s that food cooked with love begets more love.”

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at


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