In Cooked in Africa by Justin Bonello we find a cook and a cookbook that showcases the simple pleasures in life: food and friends. Justin has travelled the country shooting his TV series Cooked and the book shows us this journey. His overriding philosophy is that if you surround yourself with some good mates finding the actual source of food and enjoying the end result together can be an amazing experience.
He is clearly extremely proud of South African culture and our food heritage and the recipes featured reflect that. So expect things like waterblommetjie potjie, koeksisters, roosterkoek etc. Get the picture? This is rustic, traditional, get-your-hands-dirty kind of stuff. He also celebrates nature and the outdoors in general with this book and as a result quite a few of his dishes are full of theatre. The Tarzan Roast, for example, involves a huge chunk of meat being hung above a fire in a wheelbarrow!
In terms of look and feel I really like what the design team has come up with. The book is shot beautifully but put together in a way that creates a real sense of the laid-back style of Justin's cooking. So the paper is thick. The font is haphazard. The images are never glossy. The photography is often more about the journey and the amazing scenery than the food itself.
All in all the book is one that I like because of the fact that at least it has a personality. Odds are that you would NEVER have seen some of the crazy shit he does. The food might not be the type of stuff you'll serve when the in-laws come round but for a braai and a few beers it's perfect. Food is supposed to be fun and Justin Bonello does a good job reminding us not to take it too seriously.