It’s another slow day at SiS, but we’ve made a commitment, and I’m sticking to my guns. We’re going to make it through NaBloPoMo, even if it bores our readers to death. I’m here knocking out this post while Carlo makes dumplings for our soup.
The above is a photo of our newest food books. The great thing about having a blog is that it makes it easy to justify buying more books. Of course, I’ve always managed to justify buying food-related anything. I have this conversation a lot with one of our favorite food friends. She always says she’s worn the same sweaters for years because she just can’t bring herself to buy new ones, but there’s always room in the budget for another cooking tool. I know the feeling. And I wish I had her mandoline.
I’m really enjoying browsing through Michael Ruhlman’s (very authoritatively written– I’ll never bring my stock to a boil again!) The Elements of Cooking, but it’s more a glossary of kitchen terms, with a few essays on essentials like salt, stock, and kitchen equipment at the beginning of the book. Anthony Bourdain’s introduction is entertaining as well. My favorite line: “… if you do somehow manage to properly roast a chicken and serve it with a little sauce, it’s nice to be able to discuss how, exactly, you did it. Your chicken did not turn brown in the pan by magic.” Now, I’m writing about the introduction and not the book itself, but I think that really sums it up for me. Cooking is a craft, with techniques and methods that can be learned and honed. And once you have those basics under your belt, they allow you to be creative.
This is also why I finally caved and bought Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. Honestly, I’ve just thumbed through it so far, and the diagrams are freaking me out a bit. I just opened the book at random to find an example, and I found an explanation of “linear amylose and bushy amylopectin.” Um, yes. Sounds a little bit dirty, and a little bit over my head. I’m going to take this one slow, but I do think it will be useful. I’m always curious about why food turns out the way it does (especially in baking, which contrary Bourdain’s quote up above, I still think of as pretty much magic).
Finally, I couldn’t resist Alice Waters’ new book, The Art of Simple Food. Out of the three, this is the one that I want to curl up with in an armchair and read through cover-to-cover. Of course, that’s also because hers is the only one that is not an encyclopedic reference. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not authoritative. The book is structured as a series of lessons, on topics like sauces, bread, simmering, and rice. The idea is that you can practice and master the recipes in the first half of the book (the lesson half), and then be prepared to improvise, or to use your newfound skills with the recipes in the second half of the book. I love Alice Waters’ philosophy, even when I’m not following it (I usually buy my eggs from the drugstore. They’re cheapest there out of anywhere. I try not to think about the hens these eggs come from.), and her book is great, full of simple, honest recipes with an emphasis on buying local, fresh, and delicious food. I’m thinking maybe I’ll take her advice and start buying farmer’s market eggs.
So that’s my haul. I’m pretty pleased with all three of these books, which of course totally justifies buying them.