Review: Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food by Charlotte Wood

Title: Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food

Author: Charlotte Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin May 2012

Synopsis: ‘What’s important is the fact of eating together – the gathering at the table, the conviviality.’
Love & Hunger is a distillation of everything Charlotte Wood has learned over more than twenty years about cooking and the pleasures of simple food well made. In this age of gastro-porn and the fetishisation of food, the pressure to be as expert as the chefs we’ve turned into celebrities can feel overwhelming. An instant antidote to such madness is this wise and practical book – an ode to good food, prepared and presented with minimum fuss and maximum love. Cooking represents ‘creativity in its purest form’. It is meditation and stimulation, celebration and solace, a gift both offered and received. It can nourish the soul – and the mind – as well as the body. Love & Hunger will make you long to get into the kitchen to try the surprising tips and delicious recipes, and will leave you feeling freshly inspired to cook with joy for the people you love. Love & Hunger is a gift for all who value the solitary and shared pleasures of cooking and eating. Like a simple but glorious meal, this feast of a book is infused with warmth and generosity.

Status: Read on May 05, 2012 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Charlotte Wood’s Love & Hunger combines delicious yet simple recipes and cooking tips with philosophical and personal ruminations. It is easily read from cover to cover but then deserves a place amongst your shelves of recipe books, to be pulled out frequently when looking for menu inspiration. Charlotte derives great pleasure from cooking and this book is infused with her passion, but rather than preaching about the correct steps and right tools, Love & Hunger is a conversation about food and cooking.

Love & Hunger encourages an approach to meals that considers food not just merely as fuel for the body but also as a form of nourishment for the mind and soul – from the satisfaction of learning a new skill, like making pastry, to the kindness in providing assistance in times of crisis. Wood urges simplicity and generosity over complicated, intricate dishes and the beauty of fresh ingredients. That is not to say she derides creativity, for she encourages experimentation with ingredients and methods as a way to promote confidence in skills.

The recipes Charlotte shares are varied and include tempting snacks,  sides, main meals and deserts. Basics are demystified in chapters like ‘How To Roast a Chicken’ and the provision of an ‘Essential Ingredients’ list. Legumes and vegetables are featured quite heavily but there are also recipes for standards such as spaghetti bolognese and Chicken Marbella. The index is sorted both traditionally and by main ingredient so it is a simple task to find a recipe and blank lined pages invite you to add your own notes.

While the recipes are a feature of Love & Hunger, it is Wood’s thoughts on food and cooking that makes this much more than a cookbook. Wood writes wonderfully of the way in which food promotes the bonds between families and friends. The ways in which we celebrate with shared feasts, console with hearty dishes or comfort with a favourite meal. She talks of ‘mercy meals’ shared amongst mourners, relaxed dinners during during beach holidays and dinner parties amongst friends. She reminds us that food is a gift, that cooking should be a work of heart, rather than art, to be enjoyed by those who provide and those who receive it.

Once a month or so my husband and I host a barbeque for friends. Each couple contributes to the meal by bringing either salad, snacks or desert while I serve my own ‘secret recipe’ versions of fried rice and potato bake. It’s always a wonderful night as the children run riot while we adults relax with few drinks to chat. Eventually the men fire up the BBQ (usually when the children start complaining of being starved) and us women gather in the kitchen (I know, terribly sexist of us) to toss salad, butter rolls and then lay out the dishes family style for everyone to fill their plates. As we gnaw on ribs and pass the tomato sauce around the table we talk, and laugh and share. I look forward to these Saturday nights, the food is simple but the ritual of preparing and cooking and eating gives us a reason to gather and helps to reinforce our friendships.

Love & Hunger is an inspiring book which offers something for both the accomplished and novice home cook. It is a reminder to take pleasure in food and cooking and a guide for renewing the joy in preparing and serving meals to loved ones. Love & Hunger will make the perfect addition to your own kitchen, and to the kitchen of those you love.

Earlier today, Charlotte Wood shared her approach to food and cooking with a guest post here at Book’d Out.

Learn more more about Love & Hunger from Charlotte Wood here..


Love & Hunger is available to purchase

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About the Author

Charlotte Wood’s latest novel Animal People (2011) has been described as ‘superb storytelling’ by The Australian, while The Age called her “one of the most intelligent and compassionate novelists in Australia”. She is the editor of the short fiction collection Brothers & Sisters (2009) which featured 12 of Australia’s finest writers exploring sibling relationships. Wood’s 2007 novel The Children was shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Association’s literary fiction book of the year. Her earlier novel, The Submerged Cathedral, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in its region in 2005. Her first book, Pieces of a Girl, was also shortlisted for several prizes.She writes a cookery blog at and her book about the emotional and symbolic terrain of cooking, Love & Hunger, was published in May 2012 by Allen & Unwin. She lives in Sydney and is writing her fifth novel.

Also by Charlotte Wood


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leeswammes
    May 10, 2012 @ 04:13:30

    Sounds like a nice book! When there’s only the four of us we often read during dinner, but we do at least spend time together at the table, which is quite something these days, it seems. We “bond” when I make something special and my teenage sons will come into the kitchen and start helping me, which is really nice.

    A book that I will certainly pick up when I come across it.



  2. The Australian Bookshelf
    May 10, 2012 @ 20:37:00

    Sounds like a mouth-watering book!



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