Sometimes I’m in the mood for a straightforward recipe book, nothing more than a set of clear, concise instructions and an inviting picture. Other times I want this: a collection of food essays interspersed with recipes, a meandering stroll through kitchen wisdom, musings and recollections, leading to an invitation to try some delicious and achievable food. Bee Wilson is a distinguished food writer with a talent for engaging you in a gloriously wide-ranging chat about everything to do with food, dropping in nuggets of intellectually rigorous research, dollops of engaging candour and expressing it in simple but elegant writing. The pleasure of the book is as much in the way she tells it: after her husband left her, solace of sorts came from finding a dish of Burned Finger Lentils, in which the croutons are cut out using a wedding ring – the ring was no longer the sad symbol of a rejected person, but was reimagined to a new life as a tiny pastry cutter. A chapter entitled ‘Cut yourself some slack’ has advice on when and how to cut corners (roast chicken and pound cake are actually better when you start them in a cold oven) and when you really shouldn’t (try making Burmese chickpea tofu), and the revelation of ‘magic pasta’ – an all-in-one pasta idea for cooking dry pasta and sauce together in one pan, the pasta soaking up all the flavour of the sauce as it cooks in much the same way as a risotto. But I stress this is not a book of gimmicky kitchen hacks but a generous sharing of experience from a lifetime of reading, thinking and writing about food, cooking and eating. If you liked Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat then this could be the next book you curl up with. TRACY WHITMEY