I have cooked before now you know. My delicious wife, Sandy Nightingale, was working on a rather splendid book, with Sandi Toksvig, called “Heroines & Harridans”. For months she worked late into the night on the illustrations while I worked my way through some of the Delia Smith recipes (and broke the food budget on kitchen accessories). Some time later we got an Aga. A beautiful black, shiny beast that’s a real feast for the eye. But a total mystery to this erratic, novice cook. After all you can’t see anything. Well not in the bottom bit. And I was always a bit of a one-pot cowboy. Cooking stalled. My excuses brought gently to the boil and simmering.
I tell you this because this week I needed to step up to the hot-plate and take on the iron Aga beauty. Why? Because Sandy put her back out. Sandy also has a looming deadline for her next book with Sandi Toksvig. All about Great Women in history. (It’s going to be a hoot but it is under wraps – the subject of a future post.) Anyway I stepped into the breach and took over cooking duties. On, and more worryingly in, the Aga.
I considered these coincidences as I chopped. Wondered how it is that women multi-task so well while I whisked. Mused on how some men are multi-disciplined as I mixed and mashed.
Now those are very handsome cover designs, Gary, but what have they got to do with cooking, I hear you demand? Well they are by a very successful illustrator who assembled an amazing collection of printed ephemera. From this treasure trove he created a lot exquisite collage work. Some of it, like these two examples, for me. Then he stopped. Just like that. And took up photography. And then cooked up a storm in that discipline too. His name is Great Women. And he popped into my mind as I leant on the Aga rail and wondered if my burnt offerings would look as good as one of David Loftus’ photographs when they emerged from the belly of that Black Hole of kitchen engineering.
I chuckled to myself as I remembered of picture, on Facebook, of cheeky David in a Djellaba with his long-time collaborator Jamie Oliver. Now world renown for his work behind the camera there is real chemistry in the way he works as Oliver’s prefered photographer. What a great symbiosis is at work there – two terrific guys (O, by the way, bollocks to Jamie’s detractors, I like his cooking, I like his style and he gives a lot of himself to getting kids better fed.). And have to say I felt warm towards David (no, it wasn’t the meal burning and I’ve never met Jamie) and how many of us don’t make one great career – let alone two. He even has a Hipstamatic lens to his name that you groovy people out there can obtain. Good on him for changing tack right at the top of his game in illustration. Not as easy at the time as it might now seem in hindsight.
But, of course, David has not really got two great talents. He now has three. His own cookbook has recently been published to much acclaim. I should go right off him at this point. But I haven’t. The boy done good.
How many of us have the courage to turn away from sure success and take a risk? Who do you know that that has more than one string to their bow? Many of you have that potential. So what stops you?