As the title states, we follow the most acclaimed chef in the world, Ferran Adria, as he and his staff prepare for a day at his restaurant along La Co...moreAs the title states, we follow the most acclaimed chef in the world, Ferran Adria, as he and his staff prepare for a day at his restaurant along La Costa Brava. The book is a revealing look at the process and work involved in creating a menu based on what is known as molecular gastronomy by its foremost practitioner. The coffee table format and thickness translate to many gorgeous and telling photos, leaving you with the sense of being a reporter who has been granted full access. Recipes of that season's menu and inserted asides on creativity and creation round out the book. It's well worth buying for a friend or as a gift to yourself.(less)
A combination of travel memoir and food history, Buford began his journey to understand Mario Batali's origins and to see if he can work in a professi...moreA combination of travel memoir and food history, Buford began his journey to understand Mario Batali's origins and to see if he can work in a professional kitchen, but ended up on a journey of culinary self-discovery.
Despite the age difference (he's twice as old as me), the manner in which Buford presents his story at each major waypoint gives a sense of being there as he endures and learns from each trial, whether it was mastering the grill station at Batali's Babbo or learning Betta's tortellini.
In the end, this was a great book and I look forward to Buford's next adventure.
(Minor annoyance: his use of "entitled" when he means "titled." Where was the copy editor?)(less)
David Kamp of The ____ Snob's Dictionary's fame (notably Rock Snob's and recently Food Snob's) presents a journalistic account of America's contempora...moreDavid Kamp of The ____ Snob's Dictionary's fame (notably Rock Snob's and recently Food Snob's) presents a journalistic account of America's contemporary food pedigree in The United States of Arugula. It follows the current tide of food books that goes beyond actual food and recipes to look at the people involved. Kamp proposes a food pantheon comprising three figures who have shaped today's food culture: Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne. Child showed America in her idiosyncratic manner that French cuisine need not be inaccessible to the home cook. She also paved the way--for better or worse--for TV chefs and the idea of the chef as a TV personality (think Food Network's Emeril Lagasse or Rachael Ray, both industries unto themselves). Beard was a believer in American cuisine and mentored many of today's notable chefs. Claiborne was a pioneer in food journalism at the New York Times who held restaurants to greater standards and introduced Americans to ethnic fare.
Kamp profiles other well-known and obscure figures who have played roles in altering how Americans view, treat, and demand their food. These profiles are usually peppered with colorful anecdotes, juicy gossip, and contentious quotes. Rivalries, affairs, and arguments between the different players are laid bare with Kamp offering those involved (and still alive) the opportunity to respond. Oftentimes, I felt as if I were reading a celebrity magazine in between the layered narratives of recent food history. Kamp often inserts his own take on certain figures and institutions (he doesn't hold back his exasperation with the Beard Foundation) without great detrimental effect on the narratives. I found it interesting that he concludes the book by noting the major issues confronting various food camps and the entire food industry and culture, e.g. organic production, the viable sustainability of gourmet cuisine and consumption. The United States of Arugula is an engrossing look at how America's cuisine reached its current gourmet status.
Due to a combined misfortune of timing and circumstance, I have not been to the Paris that Liebling describes in "Between Meals." Given that this was...moreDue to a combined misfortune of timing and circumstance, I have not been to the Paris that Liebling describes in "Between Meals." Given that this was Liebling's last book before his death in 1963, I suspect that the Paris contained within this slender book were no more than so many remembered meals by the time this was published. Regardless, Liebling's Paris recalls a time when people savored their food and drink. (Then again, this was also when our traditional notions of men and women dominated and civil rights in America were not at a high point.)
However, as the title implies, the meals were secondary to the people who toiled to create them and the company they provided to those who appreciated good food. The meals, which are sumptuously described, are nothing more than catalysts for Liebling to recall his Paris and its inhabitants.
Liebling's writing exemplifies the New Yorker magazine's style: literary in tone, knowledgeable without sounding too snobbish, rich with the right details, humorous and opinionated without being unseemly. Few writers and journalists nowadays can write like this and not sound pretentious. Even though "Between Meals" represents its time and an era that no longer existed, it continues to serve as a classic food memoir by which other food memoirs should be judged. Well worth reading.(less)
R.W. Apple Jr. "The Smoky Trail to a Great Bacon" Jeffrey Steingarten "It Takes a Village to Kill a Pig" John...moreI love anthologies like this. Choice cuts:
R.W. Apple Jr. "The Smoky Trail to a Great Bacon" Jeffrey Steingarten "It Takes a Village to Kill a Pig" John Thorne "One Knife, One Pot" William Grimes "Dinner for 7: What Could Be Easier?" Grace Young "The Breath of a Wok" Tom Sietsema "The Chef Challenge" Anthony Bourdain "A Day in the Life" Phyllis Richman "The Chef of the Future" Anne Mendelson "Should Chefs Write Cookbooks?" Jim Quinn "Recipes for Dummies" Mark Kurlansky "The Reluctant Gourmet" (less)
Jacob does a great job of condensing advice for anyone who wants to write about food. There's advice on writing recipes, reviewing restaurants, and ho...moreJacob does a great job of condensing advice for anyone who wants to write about food. There's advice on writing recipes, reviewing restaurants, and how to get a book deal.(less)
Wilkinson talks to experts from different fields ranging from cooking and nutrition, to fashion and spirituality. She gets basic advice from her exper...moreWilkinson talks to experts from different fields ranging from cooking and nutrition, to fashion and spirituality. She gets basic advice from her experts, especially in the nutrition and cooking section, but sometimes a reminder of the basics is needed from time to time.(less)
Overall, an excellent collection. Highlights by order of appearance:
Gretel Ehrlich's "The Endless Hunt" - about her experiences on the ice with her Gr...moreOverall, an excellent collection. Highlights by order of appearance:
Gretel Ehrlich's "The Endless Hunt" - about her experiences on the ice with her Greenland Inuit friends as they hunt for food. Harrowing stories. Anthony Lane's "The Maria Problem" - A review of the "Singalong-a-Sound-of-Music" event along with an "appreciation" of the movie musical. Rian Malan's "In the Jungle" - amazing in-depth investigation that uncovers one of pop music's great mysteries and tragedies. Robert Kurson's "My Favorite Teacher" - Kurson tries to grapple with the fact that his high school biology teacher and role model is a serial sex offender convicted of murdering a teenage hitchhiker. David Foster Wallace's "The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub" - a dense yet incisive look at the 2000 McCain presidential campaign and what it means to be a journalist covering it, what it means to be a potential voter caught in it. A stark contrast to his 2008 campaign. Malcolm Gladwell's "The Pitchman" - a profile that is as engaging as its subject, Ron Popeil. William Langewiesche's "The Million-Dollar Nose" - another profile, but accordingly, of a different flavor that is no less interesting than Popeil. This one is on the influential American wine critic, Robert Parker. Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Ghost" - an amazing look at Hank Williams III and his struggles to deal with his grandfather and father's legacy while marking his own path as a musician. Lewis H. Lapham's "Stupor Mundi" - a wonderful essay on Patrick O'Brian, author of the "Master & Commander" series. This can induce anyone to seek out O'Brian's work. Donna Tartt's "The Glory of J.F. Powers" - a critical essay/review that coincides with the reprint of Powers' stories, which had a decidedly unromantic view of priests and the Catholic church.
Also worth reading for certain aspects: Bill Vaughn's "Skating Backwards" - a humorous chronicle of Vaughn's efforts to transform a patch of polluted swamp into a cozy, clean pond. Sean Flynn's "The Perfect Fire" - a tragic tale of a warehouse fire that claimed the lives of six firefighters. Anne Fadiman's "Mail" - a personal essay on handwritten letters just as email began to take over people's lives via AOL. Robert Olen Butler's "Fair Warning" - a short story about a young female auctioneer who can sell anything yet cannot find love. Donald L. Barrett and James B. Steele's "Big Money & Politics," "Soaked by Congress," Throwing the Game" - a series of articles that examines how campaign finance and lobbying efforts prove detrimental to the average US citizen. Jonathan Gold's "Paris on the Hudson" - a fun review of New York's Pastis restaurant. James Wolcott's "Forever Young" - a critical appreciation for the work and legacy of the singer and entertainer, Bobby Darin.(less)