I read an impressive number of reviews on one web site where just about everyone insisted on reacting (negatively) solely to the image on the cover.
I...moreI read an impressive number of reviews on one web site where just about everyone insisted on reacting (negatively) solely to the image on the cover.
I too reacted strongly to the image on the cover of this book, but my reaction was more along the lines of "That is a bold, honest statement, and evidently this woman knows how to butcher her own meat if she buys it whole like that. Cool!"
I've been reading a lot lately about how industrialized the food has become in the United States and as a result have become much more aware of what I buy and where it comes from and how it was treated before it got to me. The recipes in this book are made with hearty, rustic ingredients, prepared with basic skills (which, sadly, so many people have never learned thanks to a ubiquitous availability of processed convenience food) and attention to detail. Even being mostly vegetarian, many of the meat recipes in this book make my mouth water. I don't know that I would be brave enough to prepare them myself, but I would certainly try them in the author's restaurant.
Her enthusiasm for food and cooking and sharing meals comes through in every recipe and story. The specific foods she is passionate about are often different than those with which I am familiar, but that is what makes reading the book exciting and interesting. Dig in past the cover, and you will be richly rewarded.(less)
Amazing (as indicated by a five-star rating on this site) might be a bit strong, but it is a wonderful book, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Flinn's accoun...moreAmazing (as indicated by a five-star rating on this site) might be a bit strong, but it is a wonderful book, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Flinn's account of her Le Cordon Bleu adventure is in many ways what I had hoped that How to Cook a Dragon would be.
There is a lovely combination of romance and reality of living in Paris and attending the legendary cooking school.
The food and experiences and stories and characters are skillfully interwoven, and the result is an inspiring nudge to follow your own dreams and see where they take you, even (and perhaps especially) if they do not lead you farther along your career path or up a corporate ladder. (less)
The five-star rating comes with a small caveat: this book is amazing ... as long as you are enthusiastic about cheese and interested in learning more...moreThe five-star rating comes with a small caveat: this book is amazing ... as long as you are enthusiastic about cheese and interested in learning more about the different kinds of cheese being made in the United States. If you are a snob about cheese and are convinced that only the French can make a triple cream brie and only grate imported Parmigiano-Reggiano over your pasta, then either move along or be prepared to have your eyes opened and your horizons broadened.
I don't speak cheese any better than I speak wine, so a lot of the tasting language is lost on me, but it doesn't make me any less interested in experiencing the broad spectrum of flavors available.
Not only am I even more inspired to make my own cheese -- beyond ricotta and mozzarella -- but I also want to go on a nationwide cheese tour (or at least spend a significant amount of time in Vermont, Wisconsin and California tasting cheese).(less)
The author may be cynical, but he is experienced, and most of the time he is correct.
What I like most about this book is that it goes beyond dishing d...moreThe author may be cynical, but he is experienced, and most of the time he is correct.
What I like most about this book is that it goes beyond dishing dirt on the restaurant business and becomes an observation of humanity in general as well as a chronicle of the author's personal struggle to figure out what he wants to do in his life. His experiences as a waiter apply to most any service industry. Having worked various retail and customer service jobs, I found myself nodding along frequently. His commentary about writing is inspiring to those of us who like to write but wonder if we could do more or better or are even any good in the first place.
Nothing in the book was particularly shocking to me, but I read a lot about food and the food industry, so if you are unaware of the huge disparity in income between those who dine in fine restaurants and those who work in them -- whether in the front of the house as servers and hosts or in the back as cooks and dishwashers -- you could be in for an abrupt awakening.(less)
This book is certainly not for someone casually interested in food and cooking, but if you share the author's disdain for industrially manufactured io...moreThis book is certainly not for someone casually interested in food and cooking, but if you share the author's disdain for industrially manufactured iodized and so-called "sea" salt and want to learn about what is the original food preservative and flavor enhancer, the reading is worth the effort.
Seasoning with salt being a matter of taste, readers will find some of the eclectic and creative descriptions clear and spot-on and others strange to the point of incomprehensible, but those moments of clarity will rival great "aha!" moments in the kitchen when a dish turns out better than the cook's wildest daydreams.
If you are genuinely interested in learning about the art, science and history of seasoning food, read this book. Your palate will thank you.(less)
A well-told, well-written story of a young woman reconnecting with her Chinese heritage by learning the recipes of her grandmothers and aunties. I onl...moreA well-told, well-written story of a young woman reconnecting with her Chinese heritage by learning the recipes of her grandmothers and aunties. I only wish that a few more of the recipes described in the book were written out in detail in the recipe section at the end of the book. On the other hand, it may be a fun challenge to use only contextual description to piece together a recipe.(less)
Although I spend quite a bit of time reading and daydreaming about France and Paris when it comes to food (especially cheese), wine, fashion, art, his...moreAlthough I spend quite a bit of time reading and daydreaming about France and Paris when it comes to food (especially cheese), wine, fashion, art, history and scenery, when I read a book like this, I think that Italy might be the way to go instead. Not that I haven't also long been a fan of Italian food, wine, fashion, history, art and scenery, but the daydreams are usually about Paris and France.
The first section of the book is devoted to pasta, probably my second favorite food after cheese, and I want to make just about every recipe. The gorgeous photographs make me want to shop for vintage rimmed soup bowls in which to serve these fabulous dishes.
The recipes in the second section focus on rice and grains. Another win in my book, given that I love risotto, with the bonus of a few farro recipes I want to try out with the farro I purchased before I really had any idea of what I would do with it. Polenta falls into that category as well, and now I have ideas for that as well, namely Lasagna di Polenta (polenta lasagna with three cheeses). The Bomba di Riso (rice cake with provolone and sausage)is also on the "to try" list, once I figure out which pan I can use.
Moving on to beans and legumes, the Pasta e Ceci (chickpea and pasta soup) is a beautifully written example of how to really build a soup, layering in the flavors for a hearty result, and while I am very proud of my "improv" lentil soup, the Minestra di Riso e Lenticchie (lentil and rice soup)looks as if it could be equally good. (Incidentally, the secret to really good lentil soup is to cook it longer than you think you should.)
Salads and vegetables are up next, and I dare you to resist the Asparagus Gratinati (asparagus and provolone gratin). You will probably learn a thing or two about leafy greens. I know I did.
La Vignarola (Roman springtime stew) has a detailed description for preparing artichokes which almost has me convinced that I can do it, but they still scare me a little, especially since the author does not offer suggestions of what to do with the outer leaves and so called "hairy choke." I am wondering if I could maybe cheat and just buy artichoke hearts, except that I really want to try to cook something starting with a whole, raw artichoke. If the artichokes do get the best of me, I could always console myself with Torta di Patate (potato pie with smoke mozzarells and salami).
Having cleansed your palate with salad and veggies, it's on to eggs and cheese. Frittata al Forno (frittata with scamorza) offers incentive to (learn to) use the broiler, even in the midst of summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Or perhaps a baked omelette which sounds more like a crepe.
Moving from the land to the sea, recipes for fish and other seafood, especially mussels and clams, are up next. There is a swordfish recipe which promises to be "very lemony, herby and garlicky," and all I could think was "Sign me up!"
The author does show a strong penchant for rosemary, which I don't care for, but I think a substitution could be made without undermining the recipes. The same is true for chiles, but I think that almost all of the recipes could be adapted with ease to individual preferences and tastes, not to mention to what is actually available to hand.
Other meats follow in the next two chapters -- chicken, beef, veal, lamb, including several recipes for offal, and even a couple of recipes for rabbit and one for oxtails. The final two chapters round out the meal, er, book with bread and pizza and desserts.
There are recipes simple and complex, vegetarian and meat loving. Anyone with a love of hearty, classic Italian food should find recipes in this book to make, enjoy and share.(less)
The format is appealing, the photographs are artful and plentiful (as well as printed on the same matte paper as the rest of the book, which I appreci...moreThe format is appealing, the photographs are artful and plentiful (as well as printed on the same matte paper as the rest of the book, which I appreciated in a tactile sense because I find paging from matte to glossy and back again to be distracting, and the reading is entertaining, but there is so much left out. I wanted to read much more about the evolution of the dishes he ultimately prepares as well as those recipes which never panned out.
The author claims that it is due to size constraints of the book, although he could have added another fifty pages without too much strain on the binding, or even gone more deluxe with a two-volume edition. Failing that, perhaps include a dvd of the relevant television show(s), which I will now see if I can find somewhere other than on television.
One of my favorite parts was the bits of cooking history sprinkled in -- references to early "celebrity" chefs and those who otherwise had significant influence on a nation's cuisine (i.e. a royal patron).(less)