Archive for the ‘Books about food’ Category

'Consider the Fork' by Bee Wilson

I was a little reluctant to read a book about kitchen tools and gadgets, but Bee Wilson is an engaging writer who somehow delivers both wit and wisdom by rummaging through the history of cooking and eating utensils. My full review is posted on CSMonitor.com, but here’s how it begins:

Today’s home kitchens gleam with sub-zero chrome refrigerators, store ice cream and pastamakers behind cabinet doors, and display at least three kinds of appliances that purée or brew. Yet it is safe to surmise that even the best appointed also has at least one humble wooden spoon.

There is nothing fancy about a wooden spoon – no flashing lights or neon colors. And yet, as kitchen gadget fads come and go, nothing seems to replace the feel of a smooth wooden handle nestled in the palm stirring over a stovetop. Why is that?



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If you are looking for a good read this summer and you are a fan of food memoirs, I highly recommend chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood, Bones and Butter.”

Don’t be turned off by the title, there is really nothing gory about this book (OK, there is an unfortunate chicken episode) and Hamilton is a provocative and descriptive writer.

“I went everywhere she went. In the car, in the woods, in the market, in the kitchen. She took me to the farm to get our milk. As only a Frenchwoman can – in a heel, a silk scarf, and a cashmere skirt – she’d pull up the long driveway  of the dairy farm in her chocolate brown antique Mercedes-Benz, and without a single awkward gesture, get down and fill four rinsed-out gallon plastic jugs with raw milk from a stainless steel tank while forty woolly Holsteins chewed and pissed in the over-humid next room. We left our money in the honor system coffee can.” (p. 23)

I wrote a full review of “Blood, Bones and Butter” for the Monitor here.

Get the book. Definitely.

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Alice Waters believes in puttering in the kitchen. Chop and grind your own food. Cook slowly over moderate heat. Breathe. Taste. Compost. What’s the big rush, right?

Just in time for Earth Day, the ideas behind the Slow Food Nation 2008 event that brought together reform-minded foodies in San Francisco can now be savored at your leisure with Waters’ new cookbook “In the Green Kitchen” (April 2010, $28). Photographer Christopher Hirsheimer has captured gorgeous profiles of the chefs who offered cooking demos in the event’s Green Kitchen during the weekend. Simple recipes accompany each photo, their bylines reading like a “who’s who” of the foodie world: Tomatillo Salsa from Rick Bayless; Buttermilk Biscuits from Scott Peacock; Simple Tomato Sauce from Charlie Trotter; Linguine with Clams from Lidia Bastianich; Buttered Couscous from Dan Barber; Potato Gratin from Deborah Madison, and the list goes on. (Kinda makes you wish you had flown out there, huh?)

“All the good cooks I know are sensualists who take great pleasure in the beauty, smell, taste, and feel of the ingredients,” writes Waters in the introduction. “The value of learning a foundation of basic techniques is that once these skills become instinctive, you can cook comfortably and confidently without recipes, inspired by the ingredients you have.”

A cookbook that says forget about cookbooks? That’s about right. But sometimes we all need a reminder just to jump in and swim, er, cook and “In the Green Kitchen” with its pantry and essential kitchen-tool list is a good place to start.

Or if you are a procrastinator, take some time and copy this down and fasten it to your ‘fridge door:

A Green Kitchen Manifesto

Delicious, affordable, wholesome food is the goal of the Green Kitchen.

An organic pantry is an essential resource.

Buy food that is organic, local, and seasonal.

Cooking and shopping for food brings rhythm and meaning to our lives.

Simple cooking techniques can be learned by heart.

Daily cooking improves the economy of the kitchen.

Cooking equipment that is durable and minimal simplifies the cooking.

A garden brings life and beauty to the table.

Composting nourishes the land that feeds us.

Setting the table and eating together teaches essential values to our children.

Now get cooking! Slowly.

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“There is nothing wrong with special occasion foods, as long as every day is not a special occasion. Special occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored.”

– Michael Pollan, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

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In her recent memoir “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food” (2008), Judith Jones, the editor of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” urges singles to get in the kitchen and cook. In her new book The Pleasures of Cooking for One, Jones shows readers just how easy, adventurous, and rewarding it is to do so.

Cooking for one on a regular basis tends to be seen as problematic. Most recipes serve at least four people, a turnoff for solo cooks who don’t enjoy eating the same meal three days in a row. Reducing recipes isn’t always that easy: For example, how does one use half an egg? And sometimes cooking and eating at a table set for one can feel just plain lonely. It all adds up to keeping the stove top cold and frozen meals humming in the microwave for weeks on end.

Jones, who has edited and cooked alongside such household names as Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham, Lidia Bastianich, and James Beard, insists it doesn’t have to be this way.

To read the full review, click here.

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I just survived Seattle’s hottest week on record. The temperatures soared over 90 degrees F. most days and the nights were stifling. Most homes and buses do not have air conditioning.

Nonetheless, it was a welcome break from the dreary summer Boston has served up this year. Seattle’s seemingly infinite waterfronts were all the more inviting and I found myself on several different boat rides. Plus, the heat provided an excuse every day for ice cream and iced mochas. And a paper sack of in-season Rainier cherries were a perfect treat after an hour-and-a-half soak in the chilly waters of Snoqualmie Falls.

On one particularly touristy day, after a trip up the Space Needle and a peek into the Experience Music Project lobby, I convinced my friend Kerste to undertake a little foodie adventure.


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A well-crafted meal creates a space for all kinds of wonderful things to happen – family ties can be strengthened, a sense of community nurtured, and love welcomed in. Hours of hard, careful work in the kitchen may reap the rewards of appreciative smiles, warm feelings, and good conversation.

But what happens – if anything – when no one is there except you? In 2000, the Utne Reader featured a short essay that described this kind of day-to-day existence as being “quirkyalone,” meaning subsisting without a partner but not necessarily as a social recluse.

Quirky or otherwise, feeding ourselves remains a daily problem, an unavoidable necessity with or without a companion with whom to break bread. Cookbook guru Deborah Madison and her artist husband Patrik McFarlin explore this question in What We Eat When We Eat Alone with stories from solitary cooks accompanied by 100 recipes. McFarlin’s doodle-like drawings add whimsy to the peculiar confessions.

To read the full review and hear an interview with the author, click here.

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Food memoirs are rapidly filling bookstore shelves these days, and just when you would think that there is simply nothing new to add to the topic along comes an original voice like Molly Wizenberg and her book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table.

Read the full review here.

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Mark Bittman, food columnist for The New York Times, has joined the Greek chorus of foodies for a better planet. Openly acknowledging that he is building on the investigative work of Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and others, Bittman has taken up the mantra of: eat more plants, fewer animals, and less in general.

Although Bittman’s new book, Food Matters, largely repeats well-documented food research, he does bring something new to the table: recipes and a four-week meal plan.

Read the full review here and a post about meeting Mark Bittman here.

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No one can deny the power of a steaming, full plate to transport one to some other time or place. And yet food, or a meal, can also play a minor character in an intense drama.

Everyone has an expert opinion about food these days but it takes a good writer to decipher the emotions that surround the daily act of eating. Eat, Memory is a collection of 26 essays by noted authors who do just that.

The essays first appeared in The New York Times Magazine under its “Eat, Memory” column after being skillfully edited by Amanda Hesser, a former food editor there and a delightful writer herself.

To read a full review and listen to an interview with Amanda Hesser, click here.

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