Book Review: The Swedish Table
Helene Henderson’s face is not plastered all over this beautiful cookbook, and with good reason. It’s not that she is bucking the celebrity chef cult of personality like Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray would have you invest in. Rather, she hides her identity because of the simple idea of credibility. Would you believe a cookbook about traditional Swedish cooking written by a black person?
In the American cookbook market, it would not be prudent to call a cookbook Swedish and have a black person’s face on the cover. She could be the greatest cook of Swedish food, born and raised in Stockholm, but reality holds no sway. It is only perception that drives people to buy this book or that. Reality means nothing, only perception.
All of that is really not beside the point, but Henderson does point out the fact that she grew up a black person in the blue-eyed blond world of Sweden. Learning the tricks of the trade from her Swedish grandmother, she took her heritage to New York and Hollywood and eventually became the Swedish caterer to the stars, serving the likes of Barbara Streisand, John Travolta, and Kiefer Sutherland.
What the Swedish Table offers the reader is a beautifully short and to-the-point cookbook that does not disappoint at any turn. The food is relatively simple and definitely beautiful. It’s a mixture of traditional home style Swedish faire with a slight flare of fine dining.
Each recipe is titled in English with the Swedish name underneath. Aside from a small description of each dish, that’s about as far as Henderson goes to explain the idea of the Swedish side to the table. And that is about all we need. Since the bulk of American kitchens will not have this book, a brief touch of the cuisine and its heritage is all we need to enjoy these simple yet elegant foods.
The Swedish Table is my kind of cookbook. It’s short, less than 150 recipes, laid out simply with easy to follow instructions. There’s plenty of white space and the type is easy to read. Since this isn’t a true full-color book like Giada’s or Rachael Ray’s, the publisher gets around this by binding in a handful of full-color plates in the center of the book, illustrating some of the more beautiful of Henderson’s dishes.
The Swedish Table is a niche cookbook, and it may not be the best bet for someone just wanting a nice teaching cookbook. This is a book for the home chef who has everything. Its simplicity and beauty make for a nice addition to the cookbook library.