A Girl and Her Pig
April Bloomfield on cookbooks, swine and the flavors of childhood
Having established both her talent and an unassuming sense of cool, April Bloomfield has chosen an appropriate cover shot for her new cookbook, "A Girl and Her Pig", which shows the chef nonchalantly posed with a very dead hog slung across her shoulders. Her landmark restaurant The Spotted Pig and its follow-up The Breslin both welcome a whole pig each week to be butchered at Bloomfield's discretion—using every last hock, trotter and sweetmeat in the process.
Naturally, the cookbook dedicates a chapter to "Fine Swine", and each recipe infuses rustic pub sensibilities with bold flavor. Between the snouts and tails are mounds of roasted vegetables, a selection of "Meat Without Feet" and personal anecdotes of Bloomfield's unorthodox rise to culinary fame.
"Pig is such a delicious animal," says Bloomfield. "It's versatile, it's fun, and you can keep learning about it and come up with new stuff." The cover image, already garnering a marked response, comes from a photo shoot with Martin Schoeller. Never one to waste, the chef took her branded, tagged animal from the studio to the restaurant: "The staff and I had a nice little feast of roasted pig, lots of vegetables and sauces—so it went to great use."
The photograph proved too gruesome for some. Bloomfield, for one, had no problem with the pig's draped form or blank stare. "I've been cooking for almost half my life—an eyeball doesn't freak me out," she says. The eye, in the end, was Photoshopped closed: "I think somebody felt that the pig had a beady eye on him."
The recipes are defined by rich flavors and persnickety instructions, evidence of Bloomfield's peculiar relationship to food. "I love spooning pan liquid over roasting meat, piling any vegetable matter on top and gently smushing it," she writes. "And as many livers as I've seared in my life, the smell of one meeting a hot pan still makes my knees tremble."
Bloomfield is funny, and her voice shines in the tales she tells of childhood meals and kitchen experiences. "I love cookbooks with stories," she says. "One of my favorite cookbooks is 'Honey from the Weed' by Patience Gray, and she has this recipe for fish soup. The recipe asks you to take a flight to Barcelona, go to the local fish market, collect all this fish and make fish soup. I like that kind of thing—it's refreshing."
While inspired by her kitchen work, the recipes are designed for at-home use, complete with notes by Bloomfield on how she likes to serve the dish at home. The classic soufflé is given her treatment in a much more forgiving "Goat Cheese Soufflé", which can be prepared in advance and reheated to puff up nicely. Offal certainly isn't the end-all be-all of her cooking style, but "The Not-So-Nasty Bits" such as liver, kidney and sweetmeats receive their due attention. Meals and ingredients are brilliantly drawn in illustrations by Sun Young Park and photographed by David Loftus.