Valerie's Reviews > Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

Heat by Bill Buford
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May 15, 08

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in May, 2008

I started reading Heat without any prior knowledge of Mario Batali. I'd never cooked from any of his cookbooks, or seen his show. That said, the book was an interesting look at his life - an absolutely crazy one filled with gluttony, extreme restaurant hours and seemingly never-ending partying.

But the focus of the book is not only Batali (although he steals the show, in my opinion). Actually written by Bill Buford about his time spent in one of Batali's restaurant kitchens (Babbo in NYC), Heat also tells the story of his progression from home chef (and former New Yorker writer) to that of a line-cook and ultimately a pasta maker at the restaurant. It also serves as a memoir of his own time spent in Italy learning to cook pasta and butcher, as well as a history of Italian food.

I felt that the most interesting parts were those chronicling his time in the kitchen at Babbo and telling Batali's personal story. The parts that, in the end, were the least interesting to me were those detailing the regional gastronomy of Italy, or the history of pasta... even as a person interested in food and cooking, some of these histories just went into too much detail and were too lengthy to hold my interest (for example, a seemingly unending chapter on when and why cooks starting adding eggs to their pasta dough). I was starting to lose interest in finishing the book, but what I found to be the most engaging part of Buford's personal experience (working with one of the best butchers in Italy) drew me back in.

Heat did inspire me to check out some Batali cookbooks from the library, because since I finished reading it I've been having some incredible cravings for pasta with Bolognese sauce. It's also another book in the same vein of those that emphasize knowing your food - where it comes from, its quality, and really how to cook and enjoy it - that seem to be all the rage these days.

If you: A) are really into Mario Batali, or are: B) willing to hand-roll sheets of pasta until they're translucent, or are: C) considering buying a whole pig at the farmer's market and butchering it yourself in your apartment, this is likely the book for you.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Laurie.herr (new)

Laurie.herr Hey Valerie,

I read this a while ago. Let me know what you think of it!

- Laurie


message 2: by Kim (new)

Kim I want you to cook for me again. Yum.


Curtis I'm not done this book yet, but I've already rolled out sheets of pasta (tagliatelle, orecchiette, ravioli and tortellini to start), begun learning Italian, and have bounced ideas off my best friend regarding purchasing land to raise pigs and chickens. Your A) point, like yourself, doesnt resonate with me, but points B) and C) certainly do. I, for one, loved every bit of what I've read so far. The little McGee and Ruhlman already in my head was fascinated by the eggy pasta quandary.


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