What's Cooking, UK First Edition, 2012

What's cooking? Famous designers on food - 2012 (contribution)


This 2012 book comes from the publishers of Baseline, the online magazine dedicated to the history of graphic design and typography. The conception is to look at the diverse influences on the work of many contemporary UK designers, in this case, the work of making good food. The editors ask each designer for their favourite recipe and some thoughts on their choice. Len Deighton provides a recipe for Lasagna al forno, from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, illustrated with a cookstrip-style illustration especially prepared for the book.

Why it's enjoyable

Not only is the illustration interesting, there's an interesting story behind Len's contribution. In this case, he talks about how he came to understand how steam and moisture is essential to modern cooking, when having a pasta course at Sabatini, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Florence, when he was living nearby in Barga. The waiter described the lasagne as a 'light dish' and, on tasting it, Deighton writes it transformed his life, or at least improved his cooking. The secret was how wavy layers or lasagne trapped air, making steam and turning a traditionally heavy dish into a light one.

Deighton's contribution to the cookbook sits alongside contributions from many other famous designers, including his friend and contemporary Arnold Schwartzman (ice cream), Zandra Rhodes (bread and butter pudding) and Martin Lambie-Nairn (all-day breakfast).

Sample text

'Steam is the most important desirable constituent of hot food. This is why meat and poultry is served while juicy and omelettes are soft and underdone in the centre. Because all edible food contains moisture we introduce air into it and let the hot wet environment do the rest. Air is why the cheff beats the eggs and sieves the flour.'

Related fact

Designer Mike Dempsey writes about his 'culinary awakening' in the cinema, when in 1965 in particular he went to see The Ipcress File, having always had a soft spot for Ray Hawkey's book cover. After leaving the cinema, he recalls imagining that like Harry Palmer, he too wanted to make the perfect omelette! His contribution is illustrated with images from the The Ipcress File first edition and paperback editions.

All content (c) Rob Mallows 2010-2016 (unless otherwise stated)