MY CULTURAL LIFE YOTAM OTTOLENGHI
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We can thank Yotam Ottolenghi for bringing colour and Middle Eastern verve to British cuisine. The Israeli-british chef and writer’s first eponymous deli/diner opened in Notting Hill in 2002. Three more delis, a restaurant and several food and travel documentaries later, his new cookbook Sweet ( 7, Ebury Press, £27), written with Helen Goh, is out this month (@ottolenghi; ottolenghi.co.uk). My all-time favourite piece of music is Nina Simone’s ( 4) Here Comes the Sun. It’s a song that manages to speak both to all the good days to come and all that has passed. It makes me miss my brother, who was killed before his time, but it also makes me excited for my kids and all the fun we’re going to have. I’m currently obsessed with the soundtrack to Jill Soloway’s television adaptation of I Love Dick. Two songs that stand out are Meshell Ndegeocello’s Either Way I Lose and Laura Mvula’s Father, Father. The record that makes me feel instantly happy is Prince’s Paisley Park. It’s cheeky, exciting and a little bit anarchic, which I love. Prince ( 2) was a genius: always pushing boundaries. The chorus to the title track makes me happy: ‘Admission is easy, just say you believe and come to this place in your heart.’ The book that influenced me the most is The Book of Jewish Food ( 5) by Claudia Roden. It made me realise that a passion for food and a passion for words are not mutually exclusive. My favourite film is Fargo, the 1996 classic by the Coen brothers. I must have watched it at least ten times and I am still mesmerised – and often driven to tears – by William H Macy’s hapless car salesman character, and by the incredible Frances Mcdormand.
The famous quote that makes
me think is ‘Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural.’ It’s just one of many great quotes from Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Radio and podcast-wise,
I like The Splendid Table, Food Programme, Gastropod, The Dinner Party Download and The Food Chain – can you spot the theme?! The last theatre production I saw was This House at the National Theatre. It is a clever and very funny production of a play by James Graham depicting life behind the scenes at the House of Commons in the 1970s. It’s House of Cards without the big egos. If I had a free day in London I’d start it with a run around Regent’s Park ( 6) followed by breakfast at Fernandez & Wells ( 3) in Soho. Lunch would be dumplings at Imperial China in Chinatown ( 1). In the evening, I’d cook for friends, informally, at home. Next stop? I’m travelling to America next month with my co-writer Helen Goh to promote our new cookbook, Sweet (