Numerous times over Christmas, I found myself, as I so often do, scoring the bookshelves in Waterstones. There is something very relaxing about going into a bookshop and exploring whats on display. At some point, I usually end up in the cooking section, where I’m always greeted with a huge array to shuffle through. I find it fascinating to compare how they’ve all been designed, and I love nothing more than finding one that makes me think, wow, I need to have this book! This happened last year when I stumbled across the Grammar of Spice by Caz Hildebrand. I’m a real sucker for a well-designed book and this was not only that, it was also a quirky approach to a cookbook: exploring the world of spices and relating them to art and design. A few weeks later, to my delight, I found another book written and designed by Caz Hildebrand, Herbarium, that followed the same format as the Grammar of Spice. They made the perfect pairing! While reading them, I began to realise just how closely both books related to bees and pollinators. Okay, so I knew herbs needed pollinators, but it had never occurred to me that spices need pollinators too. I see them every day in the kitchen and I sort of overlooked the fact these powders were originally plants! Whether you’re a cook, gardener or pollinator enthusiast these books are great…
So this is it. I love this book! It’s not really a cookbook – it doesn’t provide recipes – it catalogues spices (kind of like a cooking reference book but it’s much better than that). Spices are listed alongside their origins, ingredients to pair them with as well as suggestions on how they can be used in cooking. The author Caz Hildebrand has meticulously matched the spices with patterns originally published in The Grammar of the Orient, a book produced by Owen Jones, and is widely considered to be one of the 19th century designers masterpieces. Jones’s designs are the perfect match for the diverse array of spices and their vibrant colours and origins.
The perfect accompaniment to The Grammar of Spice! As its title suggests, Herbarium is a volume cataloguing herbs and their origins while providing advice on how to grow them, as well as recommending how they can be used in cooking and for healing purposes. Hildebrands patterned illustrations are inspired by modernist design and offer a fun and quirky alternative to the patterns in The Grammar of Spice. I can see myself dipping in and out of these books for a long time in search of inspiration. They are neither cookbooks or reference guides. They seem more like works of art in themselves.
The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.
What is Art, monsieur, but Nature concentrated?