Phillip Lim and Viviane Sassen share the love with new cookbook
‘Food is like love to me; the love we dream about, the love we give and the love we receive,’ fashion designer Phillip Lim writes in the introduction to his first cookbook, More than our Bellies. The 12 recipes that follow, illustrated with striking photographs by dutch artist Viviane Sassen, are warming, aromatic and heartfelt, offering slanted insight into the designer’s creative process.
For Lim, who emigrated from Thailand to America during the Cambodian Genoside in 1975, cooking is a way to bring him closer to home and to memories of his mother. ‘The scent of certain foods I knew as a boy are olfactory recollections that fondly transport me back to her kitchen where I would linger in anticipation,’ he explains.
From ‘More than our Bellies’. Photography: Viviane Sassen
Lim is upfront about his lack of professional culinary experience. ‘Let me be honest with you – I am not a chef, and this is not a traditional cookbook,’ he writes. ‘The recipes are personal and perhaps naive, but over the years they have allowed me to express myself and share my joy of cooking.’ Their naivety is their charm. Lim’s ‘My Everything Omelette’ serves ‘one hungry adult’, and includes unshackled directions like ‘whisk away!’. Following the recipes feels like cooking with an old (and graciously easy-to-feed) friend. There’s still scope to play and experiment, even in the more complex dishes, like the aromatic Hainanese Chicken Rice. This tasty, south-east Asian comfort food requires you to chop up the chicken imprecisely with a cleaver, and is to be served at room temperature and laden with lashings of zingy chili, ginger and lime dipping sauce.
The recipes’ warmth radiates from the pages, no small thanks to the photography from Lim’s friend Viviane Sassen, whom he describes as a ‘kindred spirit’. Choicely, the imagery doesn’t illustrate the finished dishes, but instead, the ingredients they comprise, and the market from which they were bought. Jewel-like cherry tomatoes skip across a wicker stall; chili peppers cluster into sunbursts; empty, burnt-bottom pots are hungry to be filled with broth and chicken thighs.
Sassen’s un-captioned photographs, which are deliberately abstracted by her hand-drawn adaptations, evoke the animation a busy Vietnamese market place. ‘Her art is a continuous source of discovery,’ Lim writes. ‘Her photographs transport me to places that I dream about and long to return to – they help me to be present in these quietly powerful and profound moments of real life.’
The connection between the pair is as clear as consommé, and flicking though the book feels like joining them both for a relaxed dinner. As Lim puts it, More than our Bellies is ‘a conversation between two friends’. §