Marcus Samuelsson is the only "celebrity chef" I have any interest in. And I've been a fan of his since my last meal before moving from NYC at AquavitMarcus Samuelsson is the only "celebrity chef" I have any interest in. And I've been a fan of his since my last meal before moving from NYC at Aquavit. When I saw an ad for this book, I instantly sought it out, and discovered it in audiobook read by Samuelsson himself. While he's not the best reader, and at times his voice sounded taxed and he stumbled with flow, it was still inspiring hearing him tell his story. Several times tears came to my eyes. If you liked Jacques Pépin's memoir, you will enjoy this, because it is the same style. It's about his life and his craft. It isn't about yelling at staff, it isn't about how fantastic he is, it isn't about the seedy side of restaurants. It's also not one of the spate of chef memoirs by A) people who aren't chefs, B) haven't been in the industry long enough to have any clout. It is by someone who truly knows what he is doing, and who's goals are for a broader cultural and ethical purpose that his own fame. Samuelsson is a great chef, because it's all about the food, not himself. He is sure, but humble and grounded. He honestly gives equal time to his failures in life and profession as he does to his successes. While he could have easily used part of the book to take Gordon Ramsey to task over an incident, Samuelsson takes the hight road and simply lets Ramsey's despicable actions speak for themselves, and instead uses the incident to discuss the broader issues. He also offers some honest insights into the business side, making me take note to learn from his costly mistake as I venture into my own enterprise.
If I liked Marcus Samuelsson before I read this book, I love him even more now and count him as one of my culinary inspirations even though I've only tasted his food once. Reading this book was incredibly inspiring as I discovered that we share the same outlook on food....more
This was a very interesting collection of essays about creating a Jewish food ethic and has made me start to rethink the choices I make. I felt that mThis was a very interesting collection of essays about creating a Jewish food ethic and has made me start to rethink the choices I make. I felt that many of the essays went only so far, ideas were presented and supported and then at the end many of them say, "Whatever you choose to believe, you make up your own mind." Well, gosh, thanks. Also there is a lot of repetition of ideas in all the essays, some I thought could have been cut without having lost anything. Many of these essays are heavily influenced by the recent rash of pop food manifestos with stretched and vague connections to Jewish texts. And, some contrary opinions are allowed to be presented. This book is a very good launching pad for asking ourselves questions.
I felt there were two major omissions.
A lot of time is spent on the (in)famous t'reifah banquet, which was the (in my opinion, ridiculous, over-) dramatic stand on the abolition of the laws of kasruth in the Reform movement. Indeed, an important moment in American Jewish history, but in a book about "creating a Jewish food ethic", far less time is spent on the disgrace that was the Agriprocessors raid that shed light on the disgusting abuses of the kosher meat industry. I feel, that moment has more to do with "creating a Jewish food ethic", than the serving of clams at a fancy-shmancy banquet in 1883.
Also, many allusions are made to the corruption within the entities that dole out kosher certifications, and how small business are unable to afford a hecksher. This too is an important aspect of a "Jewish food ethic" that is not given a complete enough examination. These things should be called out, price tags for such certifications should be disclosed and what the benefit for the money spent is. And if so much corruption exists within these entities that they equate to being a mafia, then how can we even trust the certification in the first place? (I'd appreciate any book recommendations that explore this issue more)
Being a Jew who plans to open a food business, I was thinking of making it a kosher establishment in order to honor my heritage and my direct ancestors, but hearing of these accusations has made me reject that idea, because I can't be part of a system that allows that to happen.
If the Agriprocessor disgrace and the Kosher Mafia cause those of us with an ethical standard to mistrust the traditional certification given out by the seemingly most pious of us, then how are we to trust these new proposed "ethical kashrut" certifications?! What will stop the same corruption and disgrace from infecting these loftier ideals? These questions are not addressed in this collection....more
I started out enjoying it, but then I found myself thinking, "I just don't care." I get the "trapped between two worlds" thing. It's done. Not enoughI started out enjoying it, but then I found myself thinking, "I just don't care." I get the "trapped between two worlds" thing. It's done. Not enough food for me to consider this food writing or culinary memoir. The impression I got was she wrote a memoir and some editor said to add some more about the food and then it can get in on the culinary memoir bandwagon. And some of the recipes are so ridiculous. Do we really need a recipe for Velveeta sandwiches? What does a recipe for angle food cake have to do with Madama Butterfly and Chinese food? The roast beef was salt, pepper and roast... srsly?...more
Overall a very interesting collection of food related essays from a time before boxes, cans and bags destroyed America's taste buds. It's more of a reOverall a very interesting collection of food related essays from a time before boxes, cans and bags destroyed America's taste buds. It's more of a read for edification than for the beach, as this is a collection of unedited essays from an unpublished book. What makes this collection unique is rather than someone going back to research how America ate in the WPA years and earlier, these essays are real-time accounts from the town picnics, from actual grandmothers who knew every nuance of a potato. It isn't true that America didn't have a valid food culture before Julia Child et al came along. Some of the essays concerning the fresh and local produce and meat, the health-food craze, etc could very well have been written yesterday, they are still timely and is what is going on right now in our food culture. Nothing is new, we just lost our way. What struck me most was the marked multiculturalism of the essays from a time we do not typically associate with that term. They purposefully went out to collect Native and African American food, and the Italian, Jewish, Scandinavian, Basque and Latino food cultures. I thought it was quite remarkable.
I would have given the books more stars had the rest of the regional chapters lived up to the essays in the Northeast chapter. The Northeast chapter is by far the most complete, best written and most interesting. There are some essays in the later chapters that make you wonder why Kurlansky even bothered to include them. I think the book would have been better had it been written in a different, less raw format. I realize these essays were never properly edited for a final book back in the day, but I wish Kurlansky had taken it upon himself to make the flow more coherent with less repetition. Perhaps he could have presented the better essays on their own interspersed in a more standard non-fiction-style narrative. What we get, however, is some pretty raw stuff, a full well-written essay here, just a recipe (even with some ingredients missing, so what's the point in printing it in the first place?) there.
Stand out essays were the one on the Automat, the one on the maple sugaring-off, the several that shed light on the war over clam chowder, all the squirrel-eating ones, the conch one, and all the ones that pertain to the Native American food traditions.
As I said, pick this book up only if you are truly interested in food culture and the time period....more
This is a thoroughly delightful and inspiring book. It is a very personal account of the rise of a culinary titan, and an intimate look behind the swiThis is a thoroughly delightful and inspiring book. It is a very personal account of the rise of a culinary titan, and an intimate look behind the swinging door at the inner workings of the French haute cuisine kitchen- a world gone, if not practically unknown, in this country and slowly dying elsewhere. Pépin recounts dishes and meals in such vivid detail, down to the garnishes, that you will be salivating. When he describes the communal bread oven in his childhood town, you can smell all that bread baking right off the page. He speaks about his changing attitude toward food and dining during the birth of our food culture in the States. He talks of his friends and family in touching, and sometimes sad, anecdotes. Whereas some "celebrity" chefs would try to wow you with their accomplishments and connections, Pépin does not. While his career reads as one blessing after another, he doesn't seek to impress us. While the people he knows are titans themselves, he never rubs it in our face. He doesn't have to, because he is a real talent. You will devour this book as ravenously as you would one of his dishes....more
It was a light, fun read. And parts of it are very very funny. I got really tired of the talk about her ovaries and I REALLY REALLY hate it when peoplIt was a light, fun read. And parts of it are very very funny. I got really tired of the talk about her ovaries and I REALLY REALLY hate it when people take on a project and then all they do is complain about the project. Don't moan that you have to do X, Y and Z. You wanted to do it, so do it and stop complaining or stop the project, but don't try to make us feel sorry for you about the thing you're willingly putting yourself through!!...more
Unlike the spate of food writing that is just some yahoo's blog posts bound in an off-beat or comfy-looking dust cover, this is a book with a flow andUnlike the spate of food writing that is just some yahoo's blog posts bound in an off-beat or comfy-looking dust cover, this is a book with a flow and organization to it that is written by one who knows how to write and edit. It's warm and funny and has a clear vision to it. I just wish my one interaction with Reichl hadn't colored my view of her, I'll work on getting over that, because I'd like to read more of her....more
What Judith Jones does in The Tenth Muse is make the case that cookbooks (and food in general) need to be more than just a collection of recipes. SheWhat Judith Jones does in The Tenth Muse is make the case that cookbooks (and food in general) need to be more than just a collection of recipes. She edited the seminal cookbooks for every major culinary tradition, and all of these books have not been by chefs. They are by home cooks who are trying to capture an entire culture and way of life through food. This is what she charges each of her authors with. And we are the better for it. These are the cookbooks you are always going back to because they are warm, inviting, well written, well loved, and time-tested. Jones really is the woman behind the women who have given us a food culture in this country beyond opening a can or box....more
Gave up on this, because if I want to read a blog, I'll read a blog. And if you want to write a book, write a book. A book should have a flow and orgaGave up on this, because if I want to read a blog, I'll read a blog. And if you want to write a book, write a book. A book should have a flow and organization to it, this just seemed like a bunch of blog posts mushed together....more
A must read for any foodie. This is the handbook for hard times and is as timely now as it was then. However, don't think this is a dry manual, FisherA must read for any foodie. This is the handbook for hard times and is as timely now as it was then. However, don't think this is a dry manual, Fisher writes with great humor about how to stretch a penny and make something from nothing....more
A cookbook with only one recipe, and in the hands of Capon this one recipe embodies the meaning of food and eating. The chapter on cutting the onion aA cookbook with only one recipe, and in the hands of Capon this one recipe embodies the meaning of food and eating. The chapter on cutting the onion alone is worth the price of the book. This book is charmingly funny and deeply spiritual (in a nondenominational way), and needs to be on your foodie shelf next to your MFK Fishers....more
A collection of delicious essays. The stand out was the essay about the peach pie and whipped cream chilled in the stream... good god, you could literA collection of delicious essays. The stand out was the essay about the peach pie and whipped cream chilled in the stream... good god, you could literally just taste the pie. Most of the essays have Fisher's characteristic dry, biting wit, especially the ones about the characters she meets on her Atlantic crossings. The final essays read like a cross between Paul Bowels and Suddenly, Last Summer, pretty darkly strange....more