Carol'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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's review
Jan 14, 2008

it was ok
Recommended for: No one.
Read in January, 2008

When I first started this book, I asked my friend Jen what she thought of it. Not much, apparently; she didn't find the author "compelling". It was just boring, even for an amateur cook like me. He describes things (like when egg was first introduced as an ingredient in pasta) that he says most people would not be interested in, and then goes on and on ad nauseum about them. If you know they are not interesting to people, then why go into detail about them? It is odd that he was an editor for The New Yorker. He seemed to use the same words over and over. I thought "evanescent" must be his new favorite word since he used it to describe everyone and everything. It also occurred to me that he wasn't a very likable person, either. It was clear that he enjoyed starting trouble. He didn't seem to have any loyalty to the chefs who were teaching him. He told Dario's secrets about where he obtained his meat to Dario's arch enemy, for example. The book is full of gossip about his teachers, including Mario Batali, and he also makes sure to attribute it to someone else ... (I'm just sayin'...). He was pretty impressed with himself and the obscure facts he could find out about gastronomy. I agree with him that most people don't want to know about how their hamburger came to be; I certainly don't. And maybe we should take some responsibility for what we eat. However, his description of butchering and detailed passages about the uses of what most people would consider the inedible parts of an animal were enough to turn me away from steak forever and possibly turn me into a vegetarian! At the end of the book, it sounds as if Batali and he are still friends but I wonder if that changed once Batali read it. Certainly, it is no news that Batali is a wild man and a hard partier; however, I felt the author's representation of him was small and mean-spirited, especially considering that a kitchen on the level of Babbo would, as he himself admitted, never take on a home chef without formal kitchen education or experience. The author is an ingrate, and I found him (and subsequently his book) distasteful. He moves his wife all over the world with disregard for her job(she's an editor-in-chief of a major magazine in New York, I believe) on his whim. He ends the book with the fact that Mario offered him a restaurant (and of course getting in that now he knew stuff Mario didn't know) but that he was now going to go to France! Great advertisement for a sequel, wouldn't you say?
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Petra X Its only from the detail of a less than 5* review you learn what a book is really like. I enjoyed your review and will not be ordering the book.

Carol Good choice, Petra, and thanks for your kind comments. If you have lots of free time and would be inclined to read it, I would. However, borrow it from the library instead of buying it as I did.

Petra X I have a bookshop Carol. I NEVER go to libraries. Lol (well only for research books).

Carol LOL!!! I guess NOT! I just hated to see this guy get any remuneration for his trash talk and NOT because I oppose buying books from a bookstore! LOL
It appears your only investment is time, which is the most precious commodity of all, so I'm glad you are not going to waste it on this book! Did you read any other reviews on it? I'm curious if it is as bad as I think or I'm must menopausal (or both!) Thanks so much for your comments, Petra.

Petra X A lot of people liked it somewhat, some liked it a lot even.

Carol hmmmm...interesting. Maybe I'm over-critical. If you do ever read it, I'd love to know what you think.

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