Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen (Hardback)
  • Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen (Hardback)

Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen (Hardback)

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Hardback 192 Pages
Published: 25/08/2022
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Cooking is thinking!

The spatter of sauce in a pan, a cook's subtle deviation from a recipe, the careful labour of cooking for loved ones: these are not often the subjects of critical enquiry. Cooking, we are told, has nothing to do with serious thought; the path to intellectual fulfilment leads directly out of the kitchen.

In this electrifying, innovative memoir, Rebecca May Johnson rewrites the kitchen as a vital source of knowledge and revelation. Drawing on insights from ten years spent thinking through cooking, she explores the radical openness of the recipe text, the liberating constraint of apron strings and the transformative intimacies of shared meals.

Playfully dissolving the boundaries between abstract intellect and bodily pleasure, domesticity and politics, Johnson awakens us to the richness of cooking as a means of experiencing the self and the world - and to the revolutionary potential of the small fires burning in every kitchen.

Publisher: Pushkin Press
ISBN: 9781911590484
Number of pages: 192
Dimensions: 216 x 135 mm


Small Fires is a manifesto for reclaiming cooking as an intellectual... a rewarding book that stayed with me - and, like all brilliant food writing, it made me think twice about what I choose to eat and who I eat it with... a brave, honest book - Sunday Times

At the start of her first book, writer, academic and fearless boundary-basher Johnson confides a desire to "blow up the kitchen". Small Fires does exactly that, rebuilding something epic from morsels of funny memoir, acute social criticism and food writing the likes of which you'll never have read before. Taking its prompts from 10 years spent cooking in as many different kitchens, it reclaims that domestic space as one of intensely physical thought... Rich in pleasure and revelation. - Observer

Small Fires possesses an intellectual fleet footedness and exuberance akin to the writing of Deborah Levy or Rebecca Solnit, as sentences skip between mischievous punning and impassioned agitation... the enthusiasm of the writing here is generous, embracing and emboldening - i news

Insightful, radical, beautiful - Rachel Roddy, Guardian

An intense, thought-provoking enquiry into the very nature of cooking, which stayed with me long after I finished it - Nigella Lawson

One of the most original food books I've ever read, at once intelligent and sensuous, witty, provoking and truly delicious, a radical feast of flavours and ideas. - Olivia Laing

Liberating... a new way to write about food - Jonathan Nunn (Vittles)

Small Fires is like nothing else I have read. Truly unique, truly unusual, it weaves together cooking, dancing, and the Odyssey in a riveting, and moving exploration of what counts as knowledge. It had me rethinking what a recipe is, what cooking is, what is 'I' and what is 'you'. It is a book that asks profound and serious questions while also being musical, erotic, and deeply pleasurable. Being in the company of Rebecca May Johnson's voice -- companionable, intimate, questioning -- was a sheer delight. I didn't want it to end. - Katherine Angel

Spellbinding and completely unique, Small Fires made me think about my place in the kitchen in ways I never have before. Will be thinking about its lessons for a very long time - Annie Lord, author of Notes on Heartbreak

A truly special, boundary breaking book about desire, friendship, food & freedom. It feels like a whole new genre is being created through her language - Rebecca Tamás

I loved it start to finish - bliss to be in the kitchen with Rebecca May Johnson, with one eye firmly on the movable pleasures of cooking and eating, always... One for you if you like A Ghost in the Throat, The Argonauts, MFK Fisher and fried foods of any and all descriptions - Ana Kinsella, author of Look Here

This is a simply brilliant book. Raucously funny and searingly intelligent. It will make you wonder why writing about food and writing about anything aren't more like this. There are often calls made to take a particular issue seriously or do it justice, especially those that have been treated unseriously or unjustly. Rebecca May Johnson shows what it might mean to take food - its preparation, its consumption, and how we relate to it - seriously - Amelia Horgan, author of Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism

Small Fires is a smart, creative and thoughtful book: it challenges us to think more about how and why we cook, and confounds our expectations of what food writing can be - Ruby Tandoh

Destined to become essential reading for anyone interested in writing about food... Bold, beautiful, daring... It is a book that changed me - Rachel Roddy

Small Fires is a tender, electric, intimately transformative work. Rebecca May Johnson has written her own glowing epic, reshaping the notion of the recipe as a text alive with possibility. In her hands, recipes become memory objects, acts of translation, expansive spaces full of feeling - Nina Mingya Powles, author of Small Bodies of Water

Small Fires is a hypnotically riveting and exhilaratingly thought-provoking read. As nourishing as the recipes contained, this book will forever change your experience of cooking, and is an absolute joy to read. - Lara Williams

Wild and physical writing, words that flex every muscle and every sense. Small Fires invites us all to not just cook, but to think through cooking. - Charlie Porter

I loved this genre-busting book which made me look differently at every recipe that I cook. Through a mix of memoir and philosophy, Rebecca May Johnson shows that cooking can be a wild kind of magic - Bee Wilson

Rebecca May Johnson's scintillating soliloquy on cooking adds a whole new dimension to food-writing, and pulls the tablecloth out from beneath a lot of stale (and often male) assumptions about the nature and value of domestic labour. I'll never think of a 'recipe' in the same way again - Fuchsia Dunlop

Revolutionary... this is a book that wakes up the reader's senses and delivers critical arguments "spattered" in oil, like the pages of a much-used recipe book, making them palatable. - Times Literary Supplement

The most compelling book about cooking I've read this year, perhaps ever. Rebecca is a writer of extraordinary intelligence and wit, and I would push this book with feverish enthusiasm into the hands of anyone who spends time in the kitchen. - Jackson Boxer, Evening Standard

A gorgeous book... I love to read about the body and I love to read about food, and this tender little book allowed me to do both - Saba Sams, Guardian

'Johnson peels back the layers, looking at what food, appetite and pleasure mean in a bold and imaginative way. You will need plenty of snacks and meals to accompany the reading of this book - its food for the mind as much as for the stomach' - Glamour Magazine, 'Best New Books of September 2023'

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Katy Wheatley

“Startlingly Original”

I've been thinking about this ever since I finished it a couple of days ago. I've talked about it with a few people too, so it's certainly been successful in worming its way into my thoughts. This is an... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 5

“highly recommended”

An excellent mix of memoir and recipes. It's a fascinating read that can appeal to anyone who likes to cook or anyone interested in food.
Liked the style of writing and the recipes.
Highly recommended.
Many... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 3


A fresh take on our relationship with the kitchen - funny, moving, and thought-provoking

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 3

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