Ann Mah ended up in Paris when her husband was placed there in a diplomatic role. During that time, he was sent to Baghdad on a year-long assignment,...moreAnn Mah ended up in Paris when her husband was placed there in a diplomatic role. During that time, he was sent to Baghdad on a year-long assignment, leaving her in Paris by herself. I wish that had been more of a back story than central to this book, because her complaints almost ruined this book for me. Mah is an aspiring publisher and journalist, and she writes extensively about missing her husband? I couldn't decide if she was including it to try to make her more human, more approachable, but I really didn't want to read about it.
I did want to read about the food.
The food parts of the book were very well researched, fascinating, and she clearly has a talent for combining in-person experience with historical research. She made me want to be in Brittany for crêpes and attempting soupe au pistou amongst the grimaces of the older French women at the market. I would have traded the sections about talking to her husband in Skype for a nice chapter on croissants or breads, which only get mentioned in the context of her husband chomping into one.
Call me a purist. One of the best books I've read lately about French food is The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese, a book where devoid of personal story, I was able as a reader to delve deeper into the topic of interest. That's my preference! I know some people really enjoy the Elizabeth Gilbert flavor of travel writing, and this would be a good book for people who really liked Eat, Pray, Love.
I listened to the audio, read by Mozhan Marno. Mozhan does a great job pronouncing the French in the book (which there is a lot of, and sometimes not translated, the reader being left to read between the lines). She also does a decent French-accent-in-English to distinguish between Mah and the people she encounters. It brought the book to life.
I received a copy of this from Random House Audio in exchange for an honest review.(less)
This is a very quick read since each chapter ends with a significant recipe section. Nina Mukerjee Furstenau tells the story of growing up in Kansas i...moreThis is a very quick read since each chapter ends with a significant recipe section. Nina Mukerjee Furstenau tells the story of growing up in Kansas in the 60s-70s, the child of Bengali parents, living in a very unBengali place. The book starts with a description of the traditional Durga Puja holiday, a week long celebration after the monsoon season, a holiday that can't possibly be fully experienced in Kansas no matter what a community might do.
The entire book has an element of sadness and loss to it - the author has a connection to her background through the food she learns to cook, but she never learns the language fully, only gets to visit Bengal on a rare occasion, and even getting to know her cousins' names is difficult. Still, the descriptions of food and the dichotomy of home life (with Bengali elements) vs. public life (as Americanized as possible) bring her experience very vividly into the mind. One chapter is named, "All Our Tupperware is Stained with Turmeric," which to me was the best example of the combination of East and West!
Also included are recipes from when her parents lived in Thailand, and when she and her husband worked for the Peace Corps in Tunisia.
"It is not as easy to shape a life that includes all the important bits from the past as it is to follow a recipe, especially when you leave your homeland."
I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for nothing other than the opportunity to read it. I am always honest in my review.(less)
I got a copy of this cookbook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't keen on reviewing a one bowl baking cookbook at first, bec...moreI got a copy of this cookbook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't keen on reviewing a one bowl baking cookbook at first, because I feel like it's been done and I'm not that interested in trying to make something in one bowl. When I saw the author had spent several years on America's Test Kitchen, I was more interested, thinking her recipes would probably be from scratch and a higher caliber than your typical time-saving baking cookbook.
First, I made the Apple Crisp Mix-In-the-Pan Bars, because I had an abundance of apples. They were okay. I felt the bottom crust baked too quickly and mixing in a shallow 9x13 pan wasn't as easy as it would have been just to do it in a bowl. I did save a bowl.
The recipe that made me the most excited? Mocha Valencia Cupcakes, which the author developed after Starbucks discontinued their very delicious orange mocha of the same name. These were a huge hit, with the mocha-orange moist cupcake and the very rich mocha-orange ganache to top.
I'm not done trying recipes from this book, but I've sampled enough to recommend it as a solid cookbook spanning a lot of different types of recipes. The other pages I've marked to try:
Chocolate Monkey Banana Cupcakes with Malted Milk Ganache Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache Gingerbread Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting Warm Mix-in-a-Mug Chocolate Chip Cookie Tropical Coconut Macadamia Banana Bread (sounds so good for summer!) Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cake with Chocolate Ganache Orange Ricotta Cheesecake Mocaholic Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
As someone who frequents an amazing Jewish deli in my city,...moreI received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
As someone who frequents an amazing Jewish deli in my city, yet has only had partial success in making my own bagels, I thumbed through this book with awe and trepidation. The author makes it LOOK easy, but many of these recipes take quite a bit of finesse - babka, rugelach, bagels. Most of the recipes in here are very traditional, but that's completely the point.
I'm happy to keep trying to perfect these recipes, and this book makes me want to try again. Many of the recipes have seasonal variations, which I thought was a nice touch. I've had dreams of the chocolate babka french toast since I saw the picture. That may be our holiday breakfast this year!
I did adapt one recipe to a lower sugar macaroon, and although they got a bit toasty, they were still tasty!
Other recipes I want to try:
Open-faced Potato Knishes Hungarian Mushroom Soup Chocolate Babka (and Chocolate Babka French Toast!) Cheese Blintzes (seasonal toppings include blackberry lavender for summer and spiced pumpkin for fall) Classic Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Rugelach (for winter - chocolate and fig!) Three-Strand Braided Challah (with really great picture directions)(less)
I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Kinfolk Table comes from the folks (haha) at Kinfolk Mag...moreI received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Kinfolk Table comes from the folks (haha) at Kinfolk Magazine, a cozy, back-to-roots, folksy magazine that I might be tempted to label as unironic hipster. It reminds me of the aesthetic of the Quaker communities I went to college with, or even my own upbringing with everything homemade, nothing processed. Simple but beautiful living, focusing on getting people together.
The unique angle in this cookbook is its division between four geographical regions, where they focus on individuals living in Brooklyn, Portland (OR), the English countryside, and Copenhagen, Denmark. The people featured are not professional cooks most of the time, and they contribute recipes from their bounty or their own upbringing. One section is called The Wandering Table and has a bunch of international recipes.
The photography is stunning, with a very simple, naturally-lit style. It's hard to explain how these are my people, but I want to live inside this cookbook. Not to mention that I'm 1/4 Danish, and feel disconnected from that part of my heritage.
Recipes I've marked to try, to give you an idea of the contents:
I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Einat Admony is the chef-owner of two NYC restaurants - Bala...moreI received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Einat Admony is the chef-owner of two NYC restaurants - Balaboosta and Taïm (a falafel/smoothie vegetarian place!). While you might expect this cookbook to be a companion book to the restaurant of the same name, it really isn't, except for one chapter called "Fancy-Schmancy," which features recipes from the restaurant.
Balaboosta is a Yiddish term meaning "the perfect housewife, homemaker, wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess. She does it all and she does it well!" (definition taken from restaurant website). The idea is that Einat Admony is the embodiment of a balaboosta, and she includes recipes that span her own heritage as well as the broader scope of Mediterranean cuisine. If that sounds a bit far-reaching, well, it is, but there are traditional recipes alongside modern takes on dishes in this book that I really appreciated.
The sections are not divided by type of dish, but rather by theme. There are chapters such as "Grown-Up Table," "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry," and "Backyard Barbecue." This makes for a more difficult quick reference, but aids in meal planning for entertaining or just making dinner.
From the "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry" section, I made shakshuka, a spicy egg-tomato dish. I've made varieties of this dish before from other cultures, but this one is more of an Israeli focus. It was good, a nice balance of vegetables and spices, although I did instinctively cut back on the salt called for (and wished I'd cut back more!)
I had also marked the Casablanca Catch and Challah from the "Grown-Up Table" section, Moroccan Carrots and Eighteen-Minute Rice from the "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry" section, and Sabich (an Iraqi eggplant sandwich), baklava, and Sambusak (Israeli empanada-ish dish) from "Thinking About Home." The "cook/bake the book" people over at Serious Eats recently made the baklava, and the recipe is available over there if you want to take a peek.
The last recipe I had a chance to try were the Space Cookies. The recipe calls for tahini and poppy seeds, and I had always wanted to try tahini in a cookie after seeing it all over Turkish baking blogs. I'm not sure what I personally thought of the recipe - there were no eggs in it so the texture was more like shortbread, very crumbly, and I thought the tahini was pretty savory for a cookie. I brought them to work and my student workers were equally torn, until two guys came in and ate the rest between the two of them. Although the verdict was mixed, I think they were definitely appreciated by those two.
The one recipe I will most definitely still make because I can't get it out of my head is the Turkish Coffee Brownies. I had to track down cardamom at the spice store downtown because none of the local grocery stores seem to be stocking it these days, and then there is the challenge of keeping chocolate in the house... but someday, it will happen. Someday soon. And that recipe is a great example of the combination of traditional ingredients presented in a new way - Turkish coffee in brownie form.
Hmm. I did make the Turkish Coffee Brownie but it was more like a lightly spiced lightly chocolate cake. So don't buy the cookbook for that recipe! Next time I'll just add cardamom to my favorite brownies to get the taste that I had in my head. (less)
I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This cookbook is very specific, focusing solely on the desse...moreI received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This cookbook is very specific, focusing solely on the desserts of Southern Italy. No breads, no main dishes, no cheeses, just desserts. As a baker, I thought this was a wonderful concept for a cookbook. What usually happens is that I will go looking for Italian desserts and I'll come across gelato, ricotta cheesecake, and those fried honey balls that are from several Meditteranean cultures. The specificity of this cookbook allows for a much deeper exploration of a regional cuisine that needs more attention!
The recipes I've marked as most likely to try are a good representation of the contents:
from Sicilia: Biscotti Eureka (almond filled spiral cookies) Cuccia di Santa Lucia (wheat berry pudding served on St. Lucia day)
from Campania: Pere Mast 'Antuono Imbottite (ricotta-filled baked pears) La Coviglia al Caffe (frozen espresso mousse)
from Calabria Torta di Melee Ricotta (apple and ricotta cake, going to try this next weekend!)
from Puglia & Basilicata Dolci di Noci (walnut cookies)
The only recipe I could not even fathom is the Crostata al Gelo di Mellone, which is a watermelon pudding cake. But it sounds so strange, and looks so interesting, that I just know I'll end up making it. I'm always the most interested in the recipes I can't imagine.
The cookbook is saturated with historical context, in fact more of the pictures are of scenery than of the recipes. For me, I would have liked more pictures of the finished product, but the contextual information is fascinating and makes the cookbook very readable. (less)
I've always said you should read mysteries that are set in a place you love, and I have been reading these Charleston-based Tea Shop mysteries since I...moreI've always said you should read mysteries that are set in a place you love, and I have been reading these Charleston-based Tea Shop mysteries since I moved to South Carolina. Compared to what I'm reading most of the time, they are a bit lighter, but I love sticking my nose into their world. It is very southern, very Charleston, and the details of the place surround me like a comfortable sweater. I try to go to Charleston at least once a year, but it's never enough.
In Sweet Tea Revenge, a groom is killed right before he is supposed to get married. Theodosia, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, tries to help get more information for her friend Delaine while running a busy shop.
The funny thing about these books is that you will get hungry reading them. I had to go make myself darjeeling tea as the characters had some. I will write a bit more once I have tried out a few of the recipes in the back. I have my eye on some of the scone recipes!
Slight disclaimer - ever since I featured some foodie lit in my baking blog in 2007, the author has listed me in the back of her books as a tea time resource. This book came in the mail with a hand-written note. So nice! So southern!
Moosewood cookbooks are one of the central experiences of vegetarian cooking. The recipes in this volume are typical Moosewood fare, the dishes that c...moreMoosewood cookbooks are one of the central experiences of vegetarian cooking. The recipes in this volume are typical Moosewood fare, the dishes that created loyal customers and fans. I call the food old school hippie, with sunflower seeds and cottage cheese and sprouts. Before you think that is a criticism, I happen to really love sprouts, deep down to my toes.
The first dish I had to try was sichuan noodles
It was delicious - so much flavor, and simple to make. That's about what I expect from the authors of such cookbooks as The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, a wedding gift I got from my step-motherinlaw in 2000. I was marrying a vegetarian, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mollie Katzen made vegetarian cooking accessible and a little whimsical, and held my hand through my own conversion to a mostly vegetarian lifestyle. I feel more of the same from this book. It isn't trendy, and you won't see a lot of raw food or hard to find ingredients, just solid, time-tested vegetarian cuisine.
Other recipes I have marked to try, to give you a sense of more of the book: -Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup -Mulligatawny -Tempeh Reuben -Classic Tofu Burgers -Gado gado -Navajo Stew -Andean Stew on Quinoa -Ghanaian White Beans and Vegetables with Fiery Pepper Sauce -Country Moussaka -Thai Baked Tofu -Chocolate Ricotta Moose (haha get it?)
By the way, it would be a mistake to present this cookbook as completely vegetarian. It has a fish chapter, because the Moosewood Restaurant serves fish. (I had to double check what I was seeing too!) This cookbook was provided to me by NetGalley for an honest review.(less)
I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I'm always interested to see cookbooks from bloggers, and Be...moreI received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I'm always interested to see cookbooks from bloggers, and Bethany Kehdy was known to me from her Dirty Kitchen Secrets blog. The photography alone in this cookbook makes it a worthwhile purchase, truly vibrant and enticing photos.
The cookbook is divided into very practical sections, by meal type, making it simple to use. There is a regional but varied collection of Lebanese, Moroccan, and Persian recipes, with a nice combination of basics and new spins on traditional recipes. I particularly appreciated the vegetarian section, since this area of the world has great vegetarian cuisine! The basics section in the back has a wealth of recipes that would be an asset to any kitchen, including spice mixes, bread recipes, and other staples.
What I've marked to try:
Meze Dynamite Chili Cigars ("briwat") Pomegranate and Cucumber Salad Moroccan Citrus Salad
Vegetarian Pan-fried Squares Slow-cooked fava bean and tomato stew
Desserts Semolina pancakes (called "beghrir" which means "1,000 holes," and ever since seeing a picture I'm so intrigued!) Turkish Delight (the real kind, with actual flavors!)
Basic Recipes Arabic bread Thin Flatbread
ETA: Here's my first attempt at the arabic bread from the basics section (less)
I jumped at the chance to review this from NetGalley (this is my disclaimer... I got to see it for free, now I give my honest opinion....)
I have been...moreI jumped at the chance to review this from NetGalley (this is my disclaimer... I got to see it for free, now I give my honest opinion....)
I have been impressed by Isa Chandra Moskowitz before, in her blog and previous cookbooks which I also own. There is something special about this one - the recipes are intended to be easy, weeknight fare, which is what I need most often. To really test it out, I picked recipes to try and did so on two normal busy days after work. Both recipes were tremendous. Both of us went back for seconds, and actually we ate the soup two days in a row because we couldn't stand that it was still in the fridge.
The soup is Shroomy Hot & Sour Soup:
Because the first taste I took didn't seem spicy enough, I added two more big squirts of sriracha... that ended up making it pretty spicy! Phew. Still good.
The only slightly complaint I have about the book is that the recipes seem pretty carb-heavy overall. This is a complaint I have with most vegan cuisine. Luckily I am experienced in adapting recipes to a lower carb way of eating like we do in my house. Take, for example, the Goddess Noodles. The recipe asks for whole-wheat linguine, but I just replaced it with spiralized zucchini (raw, never cooked), and suddenly you have a super tasty low-carb vegan meal. And we loved it! Okay, I also added sesame seeds, leftover mushrooms, and peanuts, but it seemed clear that she intended it to be a simple pantry dish anyway.
This cookbook would be a great addition to old jaded vegans who need new spins on recipes but would also be accessible to new vegans or people who would like to incorporate vegan meals into their repertoire. The illustrations are beautiful and the whimsical drawings add a "you can do it" feeling.
Isa's personality comes through the entire cookbook. Chapter 2 tells you, "Don't roll your eyes at salad!" and goes on to talk about how even though every generation finds a way to destroy salad, it can be a delicious meal.
Other recipes that caught my eye in the first read: -Pureed Split Pea & Rutabaga Soup -Chunky Miso Vegetable Soup -Babushka Borscht -Sesame Slaw with Warm Garlicky Seitan -Roasted Yellow Beet Salad -Dragon Noodle Salad (again, probably will make with zucchini) -Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Lentils -Chicky Tuna Salad Sandwiches (not tuna) -Coconut Chana Saag -Mushroom Hot Pot -Roasty Soba Bowl (another candidate for veg substitution) -Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl -Steamed Chicky Seitan (I've made her recipe for regular seitan, can't wait to try this one!) (less)
Ever since I read the starred review of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking in the 24 June issue of Publishers Weekly, I knew I had to get my hands on...moreEver since I read the starred review of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking in the 24 June issue of Publishers Weekly, I knew I had to get my hands on this book! I was lucky to come across it in NetGalley, which gave me a copy for review.
"Inevitably, a story about Soviet food is a chronicle of longing, of unrequited desire."
Anya Von Bremzen was born in the USSR and later emigrated to the United States with her mother. Her James Beard award winning cookbook, Please To The Table: The Russian Cookbook, was published in 1990, so her knowledge of the food of Russia is not to be disputed. Instead of the regional focus that her cookbook had, this memoir is divided into decades of Soviet Russia. Each chapter takes a decade and discusses the historical events, the food, and how each impacted her personal story - her family, her ancestors, her memories - from 1910s into the twenty-first century.
When I got to the end of the chapter on the Czars and there were no recipes, I panicked. Surely I couldn't move on from this book without a chance to make Kulebiaka! She quotes Chekhov's description of the dish from "The Siren" and then goes on to talk about the significance of the dish in her own family. I wanted to try it immediately! Thankfully, Part V of the book features recipes from each chapter, removed to the end for the sake of a continual narrative.
Even the decades of Communism-driven scarcity create a sort of nostalgia for Soviet sausages and dense bread that I was surprised to be feeling along with her. The comparison she makes between those foods and the only food they could afford right after entering the country - hot dogs and Wonderbread - I had to wonder if they really are so different?
From reading how Lenin had a fondness for apple cake to the puzzling "luxury" of Salat Olivier, I enjoyed reading about the very Russian foods and stories. Highly recommended!
Here is a bit that made me giggle - a poster from the 1920s when housewives were being encouraged to stop cooking for their families, and families were being forced to live communally. The translation is "Down with Kitchen Slavery!" (less)
For readers familiar with Michael Pollan, his writing style will come as no surprise. It's true that this book goes into the specifics of four element...moreFor readers familiar with Michael Pollan, his writing style will come as no surprise. It's true that this book goes into the specifics of four elements in cooking, but in each he spends considerable time on background and related topics. I'm not sure I should have listened to the audio because when it started to get repetitive I couldn't skim like I would in the print. I just had to take my time listening, which can be hard with a 3 mile commute, but I definitely learned some things. And man did this book make me hungry. It also made me want to go back to my baking projects like working through The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread and rejoining the Baking with Julia: Sift, Knead, Flute, Flour, And Savor... bake-along group. I do miss that intentional, multiple versions of a recipe until you get it right, process. I used to learn so much during that time.
I was surprised that Michael Pollan wasn't more of a cook to start out with, considering that he tends to write almost entirely about food. At the same time, he was working with absolute experts on barbecue, bread baking, and fermentation (the pot-on-the-stove section was a bit of a stretch). He brings in information about anthropology, ethics, and public health. There is something for everyone.
Despite my complaints of not being able to skim, I enjoyed the author's reading of his own work. He has a pleasant and interested voice, and this is clearly a subject that he is still interested in now, even after spending all this time on it. This will be a nice addition to our university library, because we have a wide spectrum of courses that touch on food. This will fit nicely within those ranges.(less)
"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?" - Charles de Gaulle
How indeed? Especially when it is u...more"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?" - Charles de Gaulle
How indeed? Especially when it is upwards of 600, or was, before smaller operations started shutting down more frequently.
I have long been curious about what made cheeses different from one another, not really understanding the science, and this book has filled in many of those gaps for me. The author also profiles individual French cheeses of significance, looking at how they are made now, the history of their making and of their definition, and introduces us to several of the cheesemakers. She also throws in some commentary and cheese proverbs that made me laugh, especially the little story about cheese espionage.
This was probably my greatest moment of learning: "As the cheese ages, enzymes produced by the bacteria break down the fats and proteins into fatty and amino acids, which are further broken down into smaller chemical components, all with various aromas and flowers."
Other little tidbits: "In Lapland people dunk the cheese made from reindeer milk in coffee as if it were toast. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the world's most expensive cheese is made with the milk of moose. According to one article, moose give very little milk and are so temperamental that they go dry if milked in anything but absolute silence."
"The rind of a Tamie .. is a lustrous vivid saffron. And it has a delicate toe-jam scent."
"...Teetering on the brink of cheese."
"Cheese...abounds in casein, a protein that breaks down in the digestive system to produce an opioid called casomorphine... the most powerful casomorphin has about 1/10 the narcotic power of pure morphine."
Quotations from others: "A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye." - Brillat-Savarin
"Many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese - toasted, mostly." -Robert Louis Stevenson
This comes out in June 2013; I received an early review copy from NetGalley, so some of these quotations may change.(less)
Edward Lee was one of the contestants in season 9 of Top Chef, and I rooted for him to win in that season because of his interesting flavor profile an...moreEdward Lee was one of the contestants in season 9 of Top Chef, and I rooted for him to win in that season because of his interesting flavor profile and commitment to farm-to-table cuisine.
This part-cookbook, part-memoir is just what you'd hope for from him. Korean and southern sayings are sprinkled into his own story, and recipes that combine ingredients in creative ways. (He refuses to call it fusion, and has an interesting argument for why "fusion" might be a racist term.... he just uses what he likes.) His passion for pickling and curing even includes him encouraging the reader to "buy a second fridge" for the best curing setup. Ha! He clearly believes in doing things well, with incredible respect for ingredients, and it comes through in every recipe.
There are not a lot of recipes I'll be able to try, because his cuisine is very meat-centric and I don't eat any. That isn't his fault though, and it is very central to the area of Kentucky where he lives and cooks. I marked a few interesting condiments and cocktails that will be great fun to make. I'd recommend this for any adventurous eater. I think it comes out in May 2013, and I was lucky enough to get a copy from NetGalley.(less)
This isn't a chef memoir, let me just say that right off the bat. Eddie Huang is so much more than a food person. This is the story of how a child bor...moreThis isn't a chef memoir, let me just say that right off the bat. Eddie Huang is so much more than a food person. This is the story of how a child born to Taiwanese immigrants makes a life for himself. It is a coming of age story more than anything else. Eddie is only 30, and has seen one restaurant fail and one be an immediate hit. He has worked as a furniture salesman, a drug dealer, a lawyer, and a stand-up comic.
I enjoyed the story, especially read by the author himself. I didn't always identify with him, and would be completely intimidated by him, but I still think I'd probably enjoy his food. Who wouldn't be intrigued by a man who values stinky tofu?
He does talk about food throughout the book, it just isn't a central theme the way you might expect. One sentence stuck in my head, where he describes good food as having "detail, attention, and restraint." In some ways it is ironic, because he believes in that style for his food, but not for his life; never for his life.
You can get a sense of his writing style in this Salon.com article about his Dad, and a sense of how he is viewed by others in this Time Magazine article. You can follow his internal dialogue in Twitter, or watch his show on Vice, also called Fresh Off the Boat. I'm recommending all these things because you won't be able to read the book until the end of January. But keep your eye on Eddie. Considering what he has accomplished so far, I'm not sure he'll decide just to stay a restauranteur his whole life.
ETA: You should watch this video of Eddie in Taiwan... I linked it at 3:00 where it starts talking about food, but you can watch the whole thing to watch him take uniquely Taiwanese drugs. :)(less)
How could I have never reviewed this book? I read this at a key turning point in my life, and was one of those books that changed everything for me. I...moreHow could I have never reviewed this book? I read this at a key turning point in my life, and was one of those books that changed everything for me. I was 22. I had gotten married and gone directly to graduate school right after graduating with a BA in music, with a full ride and graduate assistantship in the School of Folklore at Indiana University. It wasn't a good fit for me. By the time I enrolled in the fieldwork class, I knew I was probably on my way out, and got permission to do my fieldwork assignments in restaurant kitchens. The culinary-school trained cooks in the restaurant commanded me to read this book when I was still just observing and volunteering (I later worked there until I moved away), and it solidified my love for an industry that I was already excited by because of my experiences.
Anthony Bourdain may seem a bit extreme, but his tales of what really goes on in restaurants and among cooks is not that far off from my own experiences. Ask me to tell you about the time I slammed the head waiter's head in the fridge door, or ask for a kitchen-scar tour of my body. Once you are immersed in that world, it changes you. I loved it. I loved the rush, the thrill, the creativity, the challenge. I feel like Bourdain's memories are my memories. I may love him as a TV personality and a guest actor in my dreams, but this is where I love him the most. (less)
Unfortunately for me, most Sichuan dishes involve pork. I don't eat pork. I have a few marked to try - dan dan noodles, fish-fragrant eggplant, and fish-fragrant bean curd. I will need to go to a well-stocked Chinese/Asian market first.
I'd recommend this book to any adventurous carnivorous cook who wants to cook super authentic Sichuan food. She knows what she is talking about and it translates well to the Western kitchen (except perhaps directions to deep fry a fish in a wok, not sure how many people will do that.)
This is Nora Ephron's first novel, and I imagine her death reinvigorated interest in her oeuvre. I had not read any of her books, but of course You've...moreThis is Nora Ephron's first novel, and I imagine her death reinvigorated interest in her oeuvre. I had not read any of her books, but of course You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle rank in my top ten movies of all time, and I never ever get tired of them. Ever. (So now you know my guilty pleasure!) This book also became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, which I will be watching this weekend.
When I saw that Random House Audio was releasing this on audio with Meryl Streep as the narrator, I jumped at the chance to review it.*
The basic story of Heartburn is a cookbook author who discovers her husband is in love with another woman. As such there are recipes throughout the book, told in narrative form as part of the story. After poking the internet, I discovered that the recipes are actually Nora's personal favorite recipes.
For this baker, I will not be able to resist making the key lime pie recipe. For one thing, it is frozen instead of baked, and for another, it plays a key moment in the story. Haha, get it, key. The other recipe I've marked is the peach pie. Stay tuned for that!
Meryl is a wonderful audiobook performer and I hope she does many more. I know she had a personal connection with this story and this author, but still, her ebullience comes across just as much as it does on screen, making the story more enjoyable than it probably is otherwise. I say that because I'm not sure I like the story, really. It is quite a bit lighter than what I usually read, and I don't want to knock it for that, but the main character is a bit obnoxious.
*I did get a free copy in exchange for an honest review. We have to say such disclaimers now due to some recent ruling. I am not obligated to like or even finish it. (less)
This book was interesting but a bit uneven in its coverage of five immigrant families who happened to live in one tenement building in New York City....moreThis book was interesting but a bit uneven in its coverage of five immigrant families who happened to live in one tenement building in New York City. The author just attempts to do too much, tracing the recent history of five cultures, tracking their shared immigration experiences, while also discussing the foodways of those groups - some based on cultural or religious difference, and some based on survival and availability of ingredients. It is true these are all related, but some of the historical information she had varied in specificity, making some of the stories more compelling than others. A few of the families had so little actual information about them that she could have picked any random Italian/Polish/etc family and said the same things about them.
I recently picked up Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited from the library because it had been on my to-read list since 2009, and I think books like that do a better job of matching recipe development with history of a group. It also has the luxury of an entire book to do so. It was funny to read two books in such proximity that talked about schmaltz.
I did mark a few recipes that I might try, interesting to me as a baker.(less)
This is a gorgeous cookbook with a flavorful, interesting recipes. Many vegetarian recipes; a few hard to find ingredients. The photography is stunnin...moreThis is a gorgeous cookbook with a flavorful, interesting recipes. Many vegetarian recipes; a few hard to find ingredients. The photography is stunning,(less)
I only really knew Marcus Samuelsson from shows like Top Chef Masters, and vague references to a chef who was combining Swedish and African flavors in...moreI only really knew Marcus Samuelsson from shows like Top Chef Masters, and vague references to a chef who was combining Swedish and African flavors in his cooking back when I was thinking about working towards being a chef myself. I didn't know much about him, but was interested in hearing his story.
I have to admit to being impressed. Marcus has always been incredibly driven. As a child, it was to be a soccer player, and when it turned out that he wasn't going to be big enough to cut it, he turned all that energy into cooking. He somehow knew when he needed to push more, to learn more, even from a young age, and his skill and persistence placed him in key restaurants from Sweden to Switzerland to Austria to the United States to France to cruise ships and back to New York, where he has recently opened his newest restaurant, Red Rooster.
Listening to the audiobook enhanced the story quite a bit for me. Sometimes he misreads the words, and it doesn't always flow. Still, what ends up happening is that it feels like he has pulled a chair up to your table to tell about his experiences. By the end, I was completely rooting for his success, as well as for anyone he'd be able to have an impact on. I found a warmth to him, a compassion even, that I wasn't expecting. His love of flavors and how they connect to a community's history inform his cooking, and I think his perspective is important to our culinary world.
I feel like I'm gushing. Chefs do tend to make me that way, but I think unless you've worked in a restaurant, and served 200 tables with a third degree burn, you can't really get it - how much you pour into it; how much it energizes you. For an alternate perspective, Eddie Huang from the Observer offers a much more critical eye. He focuses on the issue of race, but to be fare, Marcus is not born American, and has learned about race relations in the states only through his own experience. I wish Huang had instead looked at what he had to offer. I think he missed Chef Samuelsson's intentions with the Harlem restaurant. He never intended to recreate what Harlem already had, but to tie it into the wider culinary experience, and his own.(less)
Because I received a copy of this from the publisher, I am reviewing it the same week it comes out! While I was given a copy for free, I wasn't asked...moreBecause I received a copy of this from the publisher, I am reviewing it the same week it comes out! While I was given a copy for free, I wasn't asked for anything (nor did I ask for a copy!), so these are my honest thoughts.
Anyone who knows my feelings on memoirs should understand that four stars is no slight praise for Alyssa Shelasky. After all, I almost gave up in chapter 2, which I will refer to as the "name dropping chapter," where she talks about her days (more often: nights) as a writer for various well-known TV networks and fashion/entertainment magazines in New York. It is shallow, it is silly, and I found her incredibly annoying.
Without that contrast, I think you wouldn't get a chance to understand how she grows. Alyssa had a relationship with a fairly known 'celebrity' chef (I'll let you Google it since in the book she refers to him as Chef), one taking her from her comfort zone and dumping her into a solitary existence in DC as he rode the swell of fame to opening several restaurants. It is an isolation that anyone living with a restaurant person would know well.
She has to go through a journey to find herself, to find happiness but also just a hobby, and food becomes her salvation. The fact that she'd never cooked in her life makes the story more charming, and it helps that she has no problem making public mistakes. It started with her blog, Apron Anxiety, and turned into this book. I don't often laugh when I'm reading, but her description of her first meal for Chef had me giggling.
It isn't just that she learns about food. Any tedious journalism major could go through that journey, and the potential for an inauthentic experience is what I was fearing when I started the book. I felt her personal journey to be far less shallow than she appeared toward the beginning, and she learned to get to know people who she had originally dismissed, and to stand up for what she needed from her life.
There are recipes throughout this that make for a feel-good read, as if the reader could recreate moments that were meaningful for the author. And... yeah, I might need to make that tomato soup.
A few bits from the end:
"You learn that there's nothing bad about feeling safe and there's everything good about inner stillness; and above all, just because you're an extraordinary person who deserves extraordinary love, it can't come at the expense of everything else that makes you whole."
"Everyone cooks for matters of the heart. We're all in the kitchen because it fulfills a longing inside, whether it's for grace, survival, a renewed sense of self, or just the thrill of it all - these are the stories that get us there, keep us there, or sometimes take us away. But without the people who have moved us, pushed us, left us, maybe even hurt us, then really, it's only food."(less)