Jhoanna'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
Nov 11, 09

bookshelves: cheery-reading, you-need-to-buy-this-book
Read in November, 2009

It's official: I'm jealous as hell of Bill Buford. Not only did he get to pursue a passion of his (cooking) with the unbridled enthusiasm of a five-year-old, but he makes a damn good story of this pursuit. I found this book in the discount section of my local bookstore and had to buy it after these opening sentences:

"The first glimpse I had of what Mario Batali's friends had described to me as the "myth of Mario" was on a cold Saturday night in January 2002, when I invited him to a birthday dinner. Batali, the chef and co-owner of Babbo, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, is such a famous and proficient cook that he's rarely invited to people's homes for a meal, he told me, and he went out of his way to be a grateful guest. He arrived bearing his own quince-flavored grappa (the rough, distilled end-of-harvest grape juices rendered almost drinkable by the addition of the fruit); a jar of homemade nocino (same principle, but with walnuts); an armful of wine; and a white, dense slab of lardo--literally, the raw "lardy" back of a very fat pig, one he'd cured himself with herbs and salt."

What follows is the rollicking tale of how Buford, a writer for The New Yorker, went from an enthusiastic, but essentially clueless home cook to a (overworked and often injured) seasoned restaurant cook. I was never a huge fan of Mario Batali's - the red haired ponytail, shorts and orange clogs were a bit much for me to swallow - but Buford does a great job at chipping away at the "myth of Mario," tracing Batali's culinary footsteps to England and Italy to learn from those who taught Batali. I will never be a great cook but this book helped me appreciate the artistry (and sheer hard work) that makes great food.
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