I (unintentionally) have now read two memoirs by New York Times restaurant critics. While the scope of Bruni's book was very different than Reichl's iI (unintentionally) have now read two memoirs by New York Times restaurant critics. While the scope of Bruni's book was very different than Reichl's it was still interesting to compare the NYC food scene, the attitude of restaurants to critics, and the concerns they prioritized about reviewing. Overall I preferred Reichl's book that focused primarily upon her role as a restaurant reviewer. It was interesting to see the tricks she had to invent (and according to Bruni's book are now regularly employed by the critic) to visit restaurants unrecognized such as disguises and pseudonyms on credit cards. Reichl herself narrates the audiobook which provides a great authenticity to her persona as she describes her various alter egos and the psychological toll they take on her, her family, and friends....more
This memoir charts NYT restaurant reviewer Bruni's long-rocky relationship with food from binge eater to gourmand. Most of the book charts out his fruThis memoir charts NYT restaurant reviewer Bruni's long-rocky relationship with food from binge eater to gourmand. Most of the book charts out his frustrations with his bottomless pit stomach and his ballooning weight - and its impact on his social life. The NYT restaurant reviewer bit comes at the end, and could have been a greater portion of the book in my mind. Still, it's refreshing to get a glimpse into the fraught relationship between food/weight/health from a man's perspective. The title is a nod to his grandma's saying "Born round you can't be square" but Bruni's story demonstrates that you CAN change your habits even if you don't change who you are at heart. Read by Bruni it was a good audiobook choice for the commute....more
I wavered between interest and slight boredom throughout the entire audiobook. I think the boredom was from two causes: 1) I've read quite a bit aboutI wavered between interest and slight boredom throughout the entire audiobook. I think the boredom was from two causes: 1) I've read quite a bit about Julia Child & friends and the 1960s/70s food movements so a fair amount of the content was known to me and 2) By trying to give a broad view of how the food culture was changing in 1970 Barr focused on too many key figures experiences of the same events, the same dinners, the same books which became dull. Still this was my first really good introduction to M.F.K Fisher and I will definitely search out some of her works. I do think one reason the book suffered was because the author (her great nephew) put her on a pedestal....more
It took me a little bit to warm up to this audiobook but ultimately I enjoyed it. I checked it out from the library because it has a few of my favoritIt took me a little bit to warm up to this audiobook but ultimately I enjoyed it. I checked it out from the library because it has a few of my favorite things: a strong female protagonist, is about farming/food, and is set in my home state: Michigan. I did feel that Link's pride was a major barrier in her experiences as a mom in rural northern (lower peninsula) Michigan going through a divorce and trying to make her family self-sufficient. She wouldn't reach out to her family or use government programs that are in place to assist people -- although I have known people is similar circumstances who were hesitant to take advantage of free/reduced lunch etc. I did not the the narrator is not from Michigan due to some mispronunciations. ...more
My enjoyment of this audiobook waxed and waned throughout the narration. I was disappointed by the delivery of the book by the narrator and think it wMy enjoyment of this audiobook waxed and waned throughout the narration. I was disappointed by the delivery of the book by the narrator and think it would have been stronger if Stewart (whom I have seen present in-person) had narrated her own book.
Still, I think it would be a better printed book because you could thumb through and read the sections you're interested in and ignore others. The bulk of the book is very skewed towards liquor and cocktails and rarely touches on wine and beer. When it does touch on beer (my primary interest for this book) Stewart almost always references the brewery Dogfish Head. She seems to know much more about the many distilleries around the world than breweries or wineries. That said I did pick up many interesting factoids such as the fact that orange groves are allowed to color their fruit to please consumer preference - so if you're using an orange or lemon for zest or a peel garnish you should probably go organic.
I really wanted to like this book but I felt like the author just spent a lot of the time whining about how her life wasn't what she had expected andI really wanted to like this book but I felt like the author just spent a lot of the time whining about how her life wasn't what she had expected and didn't have the meaning she wanted. In particular (and as a Michigander) I resented the way she characterized and inaccurately described (the speed limit has never been 75) her brief time in Michigan. She seemed to be trying too hard throughout the book - trying too hard to create an Anthony Bourdain feel where she was badass and hard. She also didn't really clearly explain how she jumped from being someone who worked in restaurants as front help to cooking in the back - a part I think would have been more interesting than her years she spent partying as a cocktail waitress. I did enjoy the story more after she opened her restaurant but still found it ultimately unsatisfying....more
An interesting novel about an Indian family who settles in the heart of France to open a restaurant and clashes with their narrow-minded, xenophobic cAn interesting novel about an Indian family who settles in the heart of France to open a restaurant and clashes with their narrow-minded, xenophobic chef and hotelier neighbor. Knowing this has been made into a movie I am interested to see if they down play the racism as I expect they will because otherwise Helen Miren's character will be too unlikeable. The book is focused around the family's most talented son Hassan who is an unparalleled gift to flavor and his rise in the culinary world. As a foodie and avid reader of food and chef-related books I really enjoyed this book but I think some people moving from the movie (where I expect they play up the slight love interest from the book into a central component of the narrative) will be disappointed.
This was a good choice for an audiobook. The story is not too involved that it is hard to follow the plot while driving my commute but engaging enough to keep me wondering about the story line. Neil Shah is a very good narrator and I will be looking to listen to more of his narration work....more
Being familiar with the T.V. shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown I felt listening to this audiobook (narrated by Bourdain) was like watching anothBeing familiar with the T.V. shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown I felt listening to this audiobook (narrated by Bourdain) was like watching another episode. Many of the characters and places Boundain talks about in the book have been showcases on t.v. episodes.
My favorite sections seemed a little out of place with the entire audiobook which mainly focuses on the dirty underside of Bourdain's experiences in the cooking world - drugs, sexist behavior, all-night debauchery. Mid-book Bourdain breaks to offer advice on the equipment serious home cooks need and towards the end includes a section breaking down the lingo of the cooking world....more
Not as engrossing as his previous book Cod, but interesting and full of mind-blowing tidbits nonetheless. Read this for my Food Co-Op book club - andNot as engrossing as his previous book Cod, but interesting and full of mind-blowing tidbits nonetheless. Read this for my Food Co-Op book club - and was surprised at how many non-food uses salt has today. A number of passages were very reminiscent of Cod which isn't surprising considering how important salt was to the fishing industry as a preservative. As a world history Kurlansky jumps around a lot between continents/cultures trying to move chronologically but sometimes overlapping. ...more
I enjoyed the food memoir portions of this book but my favorites were the graphic depictions of recipes. I hope Knisley produces an entire graphic cooI enjoyed the food memoir portions of this book but my favorites were the graphic depictions of recipes. I hope Knisley produces an entire graphic cookbook because I would snap that up immediately. ...more
This book reminded me of Bill Bryson's At Home wherein Wilson goes into way more depth about every-day items in the kitchen (the spoon, the stove, theThis book reminded me of Bill Bryson's At Home wherein Wilson goes into way more depth about every-day items in the kitchen (the spoon, the stove, the can opener) than you can ever imagine.
I admin that I drifted in and out while driving on my commute so I did not catch every morsel provided in this book. I was astounded however by how recently some of the seemingly more basic kitchen implements were invented!
Read by a British narrator the audiobook reminds a little of the Two Fat Ladies cooking show. ...more
Michael Pollan’s Cooked focuses on how man has created methods of changing what is available in nature to make it more pleasing or effective in the crMichael Pollan’s Cooked focuses on how man has created methods of changing what is available in nature to make it more pleasing or effective in the creation of energy. To do this, Pollan divides the book into 4 main sections: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. These sections focus (respectively) on roasting meat, cooking stews/braises, baking bread, and the art of fermentation (cheese/beer).
I consumed this Pollan tome as an audiobook. If I had actually been reading the book it might have been more obvious to me from the start that Fire - where he writes (reads) at length about whole hog BBQ - thehistory of man, meat, and fire; what constitutes “authentic” BBQ today; takes up about one third of the entire book. Out of the 11 disc set, Fire and BBQ took up at least 4 or 5 discs. It got the point where I was wondering if we were ever going to learn about something that wasn’t focusing on charcoal, wood fires, pitmen, or crackling.
But eventually we did. I enjoyed the water section which focused on using a vessel to cook meat or vegetables in a different manner. But the bread section was what I was waiting for - Pollan’s adventures in baking including perfecting his own sourdough loaf. Here I learned with disgust what I had somewhat conjectured on my own - that market produced whole wheat breads that are light and airy often contain ingredients you might not expect, or want to consume - including cotton and wood pulp! This drives my desire to bake my own bread - and might be the catalyst to actually get me to try my hand at my own sourdough starter instead of using store bought year (the sourdough is supposed to produce more health benefits).
Finally the book came to Earth - which I’m not entirely convinced about the placement of fermented products in this section, but other than growing raw foods, I’m not sure what else would go here. Pollan discusses his attempts to make sauerkraut, his visits with an old-school cheese making nun, and his homebrew adventures. In the beer section in particular, Pollan waxes a bit on a philosophical bent.
But the, throughout the book Pollan wanders from the process of barbecuing, braising, baking, or fermenting to discuss the health of food produced in the home, the rise of specialization within the modern commodity, and the resurgence of a hobbyist maker culture as a backlash to the 21st century office life. Not just a book on the basics of cooking, Pollan takes the reader on a process of considering how cooking used to be the focal point of human life, to an inconvenience, to a conscious choice. ...more
A straightforward and delightful story about falling in love and how food is a way for people to come together, to love, and to take care of one anothA straightforward and delightful story about falling in love and how food is a way for people to come together, to love, and to take care of one another.
Food writer Elissa is a New Yorker, a Jew, and a fancy food addict. She will spend hours cooking dinner for herself using a wide arrange of cooking implements many of us have probably never heard of, much less ever used. But then she meets Susan, a fellow foodie who embraces the simplicity of basic ingredients and doesn't think about presentation. Susan is also a country girl and Polish Catholic to boot.
These two women build a solid love and relationship in part because they embrace what food means to them singularly and as a whole. Following in the footsteps of Frances Meyer's Under the Tuscan Sun, Julie Powell's Julie & Julia, and Kristin Kimbrall's The Dirty Life this book is an enrapturing read focusing each step of the couple's first year together around stand-out dishes that clearly have emotional as well as gourmet value to the writer....more
Ever since the movie Julie and Julia came out I've been enthralled with Julia Child. Not so much Julie Powell. Although I adore Amy Adams in the movieEver since the movie Julie and Julia came out I've been enthralled with Julia Child. Not so much Julie Powell. Although I adore Amy Adams in the movie I had a suspicion that I wasn't quite seeing the whole truth behind the blogger and after her butcher book came out, I was even less inclined to pick this one up. However, I saw a copy at a library book sale and made the leap.
I enjoyed Julie and Julia. It was interesting how she interspersed excerpts from Paul Child's letters to provide small insights and connections between her experiences and Julia's. It was also interesting to see how the book compared to the movie which is definitely one of my go-to comfort films. Finally, I had proof that the scene where Amy Adams tries an egg for the first time and says it tastes like cheese sauce is NOT correct - in the book Julie says cream sauce. Which I still don't totally get but I think it makes more sense than cheese sauce.
I also think I understand why Julia might not have liked Julie's blog (if she ever did actually read it). It's not [as implied in the movie] because of an occasional f-word. There's a lot them - and other choice words as well. Plus a lot of odd sexual phrases and ideas as well that might not have sat well with the era of Julia. Just a guess.
Mostly I enjoyed the book because I enjoy stories of women who decide to take on challenges, try new things, and because I like food. Just like Julia....more
A story of food, wine, and family in Italy. Author Sergio was born in Naples, Italy and moved to the United States as a small child. He grew up with aA story of food, wine, and family in Italy. Author Sergio was born in Naples, Italy and moved to the United States as a small child. He grew up with an appreciation for good food and wine - a talent for wine really. As an adult Sergio eventually opened his own business with the goal of teaching Americans to appreciate Italian wine the same way they appreciate/esteem French wines.
This business takes poor Sergio to Italy for several weeks year to taste wines in whirlwind travel around the country. A bulk of the book takes place the year Sergio gets wise and decides to not kill himself with crazy travel in the name of his business and to enjoy life - by bringing his wife and children, and his parents to Italy with him for a two-month tour.
Foodies who enjoy the focus on natural methods of production will appreciate many of the characters Segio introduces in this book - growers and wine makers who return to the roots of winemaking in order to create a truly great vintage. The food, the wine, the Italian culture all make this a fun, light, semi-escapist read....more
Not the book I was expecting. That said, I'm pretty sure Eddie Huang achieved exactly what he set out to do : blast away any preconception of Asian AmNot the book I was expecting. That said, I'm pretty sure Eddie Huang achieved exactly what he set out to do : blast away any preconception of Asian Americans and more specifically Asian American chefs.
Huang is not the stereotypical Asian American (read: quiet, studious, playing piano). He is a foul-mouthed, hip-hop and rap loving, slightly criminal gangster cook. Cook - not chef.
The result? Although we are roughly the same age I was lost in a sea of sports and music references. At first I tried to look up the games of rappers he was dropping and the slang he used. But then I gave up. I decided that wasn't how Huang was expecting his book to be read. So I let go of the cultural references that I didn't understand and tried to appreciate the more important part of the story.
The message about how caught between a stereotype in public and expectations at home (in a not-so-happy home) Huang rebelled and found solace in a culture that most people wouldn't suspect. How his interest in food and culture and race was always present but not always easy to communicate. And how disappointing his parents sucked (emotionally and physically) but at the end Huang had to be true to himself.
I enjoyed this book but I can think of friends who may enjoy it more because they will understand the cultural references.
Disclaimer: I won my copy from a GoodReads giveaway....more
In this book Michael Pollan distills knowledge from his previous books and combines it with "food rules" that he crowd-sourced. Despite the title, PolIn this book Michael Pollan distills knowledge from his previous books and combines it with "food rules" that he crowd-sourced. Despite the title, Pollan stresses in the introduction that they are really more guidelines to live by - ideas to embrace and build into your life rather than rigid cans or cannots. In this edition those rules are charmingly illustrated by Maria Kalman.
If you have read anything by Pollan many of the rules will be familiar: Avoid food that contains more than 5 ingredients Don't eat food your grandmother (or great-grandmother) wouldn't recognize Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
Many of the rules are ideas that could be extrapolated from other food books but the charm of this tome is that they are clearly spelled out. Some pages are just the single-sentence rule. Others include a few paragraphs elaborating on the rule.
It's a quick read and I was happy to note that my family follows most of the rules already, although we do fall short regarding rules like eating without the TV, or milk is a food, not a beverage.
I also got some simple new ideas that will be easy to incorporate into my life and that retrospectively I can't believe I didn't think so (i.e. Drink the water you cook your veggies in).
I love this little book - it's a beautiful addition to my bookshelf and I can pull it out whenever my mother-in-law brings some new 'lite' or 'smart' food into my house!...more
The Dirty Life follows the transition in Kristin's life from a wandering travel writer to a down and dirty farmer. The story begins when Kristin interThe Dirty Life follows the transition in Kristin's life from a wandering travel writer to a down and dirty farmer. The story begins when Kristin interviews Mark, an organic farmer, and starts to fall for him taken in by his manliness and his vision of a sustainable, local way of life.
Her book details the challenges and triumphs of their first year creating a farm in upstate New York with the concept of "whole diet" farming - where community members will subscribe to the farm on an annual basis and will receive everything they need to eat - meat, dairy, eggs, wheat, vegetables, and fruits.
The Dirty Life chronicles not just the ups and downs of farm lie, but of holding a vision outside of the contemporary concept of "normal," and of love and relationships. It demonstrates how finding something you love and someone to share it with forms a strong bond that can completely transform your life and that the future is often not what you planned.
This book is similar to Righteous Porkchop at the bones : urban woman meets rugged, charming outdoorsy man and changes her life to join his ventures much to her satisfaction. However, this book is a lighter read but encompasses a broader food evangelism - looking beyond meat and animal products to the entire food system.
I loved reading this book but would like to find something with the story a bit switched - urban man falls for rustic farm girl - any suggestions?...more
I started this book in early 2013 and set it down for a good portion of year because the first quarter relies so heavily on philosophy and history inI started this book in early 2013 and set it down for a good portion of year because the first quarter relies so heavily on philosophy and history in a dry way.
I did eventually make it through. I did particularly enjoy the chapters where Gopnik addresses the 19th century food feminist Elizabeth Pennell discussing food and recipes between the two eras.
The later chapters on dessert, the local food movement, and meat and vegetables were also interesting.
Overall however the book lacked a cohesive quality that I have enjoyed in other Gopnik and other food books....more
Gourmet Rhapsody takes us back to Rue de Grenelle (if you have read Elegance of the Hedgehog) but this time with a focus on the famous food critic whoGourmet Rhapsody takes us back to Rue de Grenelle (if you have read Elegance of the Hedgehog) but this time with a focus on the famous food critic who lives there - Pierre Arthens, who is dying.
Pierre spends the last 24 hours of his life trying to rediscover the ultimate taste. During his reminisces he returns to different stages in his life and different areas of the globe - childhood vacations in Morocco, breakfast in the United States, exquisite dinners as a food critic.
Interspersed are brief chapters by other characters in Pierre's life - reflecting on how his life and death have/will affect them - his daughter, his nephew, his mistress, his cat.
Charming and beautiful, I enjoyed the descriptions about food most of all....more
I've known about Marcus Samuelsson for a little while now - I saw him on Top Chef Masters, watched him judge on Chopped, and routed for him to be theI've known about Marcus Samuelsson for a little while now - I saw him on Top Chef Masters, watched him judge on Chopped, and routed for him to be the next Iron Chef America. In this televised format he seemed a little cocky, maybe like he told people what they wanted to hear, but I liked his story and I like his food (at least I think so, since TV doesn't let you taste).
So when I saw that Marcus was coming out with a memoir I very much wanted to read it. Even better, I won an advanced reading copy from a GoodReads giveaway (disclaimer requirement met!). I was very excited when I won!
Yes, Chef tells the story of how Marcus (born in Ethiopia) was adopted and raised by two wonderful Swedish parents and strove through cooking to become a man equal to his father (his Swedish father). It is a story of a young man wanting to make his parents proud, it is a story of racism in the cooking world, of a young man struggling with his identity (Swedish? Ethiopian? black? African American? but always chef), and of wanting to push and cross boundaries in the culinary field and in society. What comes out is that Marcus was and is very driven. Singularly driven for a long time and although that has worked out well in the end, it was not always easy (or maybe even always right).
The writing of this memoir was fluid and engaging. Once I dove into the story it took me only a week to finish the book. While the reader cannot always like Marcus I think the book does a good job explaining what drove his actions and I applaud him including details and events that must be hard to share with the world.
The emotional and personal material was interesting and important to the story line but my favorite aspect of the book was the ultimate story line: his journey as a chef. How he came to love cooking, how he sought out flavors, and how he identified with cultures through their food.
The one big issue I had with this book was that Marcus did not always progress linearly. Chapters overall seemed to indicate progress over time but they were segmented into main issues in his life - largely professional stages and develops. The personal items are tucked in here and there and it's not always clear when events exactly happened. Being more chronological in the writing, including more dates, or perhaps date ranges at the start of chapters would have helped.
The other item is that there are no pictures in this book (at least not the advanced reading copy I won). There is only a picture of Marcus on the back cover where he is half obscured in shadow. Most memoirs have pictures throughout the persons life and I desperately wanted to see what Marcus looked like in his early '20s when he first arrived in New York City with an afro. I would have also liked to see pictures of his parents and siblings and wife although I would understand if they wanted to stay out of the limelight. But Marcus has no excuse for solo shots - this is his memoir and deserved photos.
Those two issues aside, Yes, Chef, was a fun foodie read and I would suggest it to anyone who is interested in food or different cultures....more
If you are going to read a book about where food comes from, read this one.
This title was chosen for the 2012 Linn Area Reads program - which brings tIf you are going to read a book about where food comes from, read this one.
This title was chosen for the 2012 Linn Area Reads program - which brings the community together through reading a single book. I started too late to participate in the book discussions but am excited about the various events in the next few months including meeting the author!
At first glance I thought this book would be similar to Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals: part memoir, part indictment of the industrial food industry. Both books look at different segments of big ag animal business: beef, pork, poultry, seafood, etc. But Righteous Porkchop is the better book by far.
Foer's book is very focused on eliciting gut responses: for example the section page 24 is called "The case for eating dogs." Niman never pulls any PR punches like that. She presents her case methodically and rationally but does not lack readability. Righteous Porkchop is part-memoir because Niman's life has become about the issue of factory farms and the threat they pose to animals, to small farmers, to the environment, and to us. Her life has become irrevocably intertwined with these issues and that keeps her interjections of personal stories grounded in this book.
Righteous Porkchop is not a vegetarian manifesto (although Niman is a vegetarian, she is also a cattle rancher). Instead it is an argument for humane and responsible treatment and raising of animals that provide us with milk, eggs, and meat. Niman writes that current large scale industrial practices hurt local economies and small farms, maintain low costs only by polluting our air, water, and ground and by using tax dollars for subsidies unavailable to small farmers, and by taking animals away from nature so that they suffer.
But the biggest and best part of this book (in my opinion) is that Niman argues (and provides in my mind) that these practices are not necessary - for example she writes that the same number of pigs are raised in the United States today as were at the start of the 20th century. The difference is that much larger numbers are raised on a much smaller number of farms. This bad for the pigs, its bad for the environment (TONS of POO anyone?), and its bad for us (the result is less flavorful meat that is raised with antibiotics and is contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria).
Instead, we should "vote with our fork" for meat and animal products that are raised humanely, responsibly, and sustainably....more
This was my second reading of Cod - I first read it at the insistence of my husband who read it in an undergrad class. I did not want to read about aThis was my second reading of Cod - I first read it at the insistence of my husband who read it in an undergrad class. I did not want to read about a fish, but he was right. This past month Cod was my suggestion for book club. Kurlansky takes the history of a fish and makes it an interesting story - about how the fishery influenced politics, nation-building and environmentalism (to a lesser extent). The book will definitely give you an understanding of how long industry (in this case a particular fishery) has been highly connected to and motivating politics. The developments in the book (which was published in the late 1990s) are still relevant today - specifically towards the end of the book when Kurlansky discusses aqualculture.
Cod is an informative book but I do think that at times Kurlansky may be stretching to make his point of the "Fish that changed the world." He places Cod front and center of many major historical events - the Pilgrims, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, etc. that it seems a bit unbeleiveable that I had never read about this fishery until now (and not just in K-12 history, but as a history major in college). Still, I have no doubt that the fishery has been influential throughout history and this was a highly interesting read....more
If you enjoyed My Life in France by Julia Child or The United States of Arugala ... any book about food or cuisine, you will enjoy this book. Jones taIf you enjoyed My Life in France by Julia Child or The United States of Arugala ... any book about food or cuisine, you will enjoy this book. Jones takes you through her time post-college in France through her food book career. It was well written, easy to read and engaging. The last 40 pages or so are recipes most of which were mentioned in the text....more