Archive for the ‘Chefs/Food’ Category

Giulia Melucci: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Posted by nybookworm on May 17, 2009

I_Loved_I_Lost_I_Made_SpaghettiI wanted to like this book and its author, Giulia Melucci, because she was self aware enough to write this book and to honestly reflect on her failed relationships but I had a hard time.  This book is Melucci’s story of her adult dating life from approximately aged 22 to 40 with recipes she cooked during relationships and at transformational moments sprinkled throughout.  Truthfully, the recipes (almost all of which looked so good I stopped dog earring pages because I realized I was marking every page) were the best part of this book.  It was difficult to read through Melucci’s failed lover affairs precisely because she is self-aware enough to chronicle all of her doubts and hesitations, almost all of which surfaced almost immediately into relationships, some of which she ended up carrying on for years.  She is someone who clearly wants love and a family but who gets in her own way so much through the choices she makes and the way she approaches dating that it is hearbreaking and because she knows precisely what she’s doing, it is difficult reading.  But since this book probably has more recipes that I’d love to make than most of my cookbooks, I recommend it and think it is actually worth owning.

Link to the book here: http://www.amazon.com/I-Loved-Lost-Made-Spaghetti/dp/0446534420


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Peter Mayle: A Year in Provence

Posted by nybookworm on April 19, 2009

topper-provence1British writer Peter Mayle’s books chronicling his relocation to and life in Provence, France have become one of the most widely read travel books around.  A Year in Provence (1991) is about Mayle’s first year living in Provence with his wife and their quest to restore an 18th century farmhouse at the base of the Luberon mountains.   I read somewhere that when it was first published, the publisher agreed to print 3,000 copies and promised to give Mayle a discount to buy them to give as Christmas gifts. The first printing sold out within a few weeks and this book as well as his subsequent chronicles of Provencal life have now sold several million copies worldwide.  No matter how many books are written on the topic and how trite the idea becomes of relocating to an idyllic southern European country with a slower paced lifestyle and fresh local food, this type of travel book will always find an audience because we’ve all bought into the myth  (or at least those of us in big cities glued to our laptops).  We use to have the American Dream- we now have the Provencal or Tuscan dream.  But I digress.  This book is good not just because it sells an idea whose time has come but because the story is told with just the right amount of that wry wit Brit writers are able to convey with facility.  Mayle manages to poke fun at French culture and stodgy traditions while good naturedly maintaining a clear veneer of admiration for his subject.  His books are immensely entertaining and even more so if you’re a fan of French food (truffles, tarts, wine and various innards make several appearances).   I have read all of his books on Provence (Toujours Provence, Encore Provence and Provence A to Z) and have enjoyed all of them mostly because Mayle is a great writer who manages to hold your attention and capture your imagination even while he tells you how much better his life is than yours.

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Provence-Peter-Mayle/dp/0679731148

Posted in Beach Reading, Chefs/Food, Funny, Nonfiction, Travel | Leave a Comment »

Anthony Bourdain: Kitchen Confidential

Posted by nybookworm on April 7, 2009

anthony_bourdain31Kitchen Confidential is more or less Anthony Bourdain’s autobiography of his working life as a chef- the restaurants he worked at, his cooking philosophy and his work ethic.   Unlike some of the other chef autobiographies that have been written, Bourdain is actually a writer and definitely has a distinct conversational tone that makes his writing very approachable.  He makes it very clear from the beginning that his chief aim is to provide a realist view of the life of a chef.  To that extent, there are many pages spent describing the nocturnal life, the manual labor, the sexists and vulgar kitchen atmosphere, the lack of room for creativity and the ungrateful diners.  At times there is definitely a feeling that he’s trying very hard to discourage home cooks aspiring to culinary school to forget it.  That being said, this book was published in 2001, at the naiscent stages of the Food Network and celebrity chefs and it is definitely a condemnation of the glorification of the celebrity chef.  Bordain wants us to understand that it is a gritty, thankless job that very few home cooks could ever endure across a lifetime.  Ironically enough Bourdain himself has since become a celebrity chef/writer of sorts with his own travel show (No Reservations) and follow-up books and articles.  He has become far less famous for his cooking (he was a chef at Les Halles an NY brasserie) than his writing about cooking and having eaten at Les Halles, to me, that makes sense.  He continues to be an inflammatory and entertaining contrarian voice to the Rachel Rays and Bobby Flays of the world and this is not the last of his books that will be reviewed on this site.

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Confidential-Adventures-Culinary-Underbelly/dp/0060934913

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James Hamilton-Paterson: Cooking with Fernet Branca

Posted by nybookworm on March 28, 2009

0000-0287-6fernet-branca-postersCooking with Fernet Branca (2004) is a parody of the Under the Tuscan Sun genre of travel writing (escape hectic life, buy a “fixer upper” in Italian/French countryside, cook with local seasonal ingredients from farmer’s market, write a book about getting along with locals).  I’m the last person to dismiss the UTS genre because I’ve read all of its best examples but I don’t think I would have enjoyed Cooking with Fernet Branca  as much if I hadn’t.  It’s witty and hilarious  read on its own but much more so if you (like me) can’t help but wistfully hope for your very own UTS  novel one day. The local ingredient in this case is Fernet Branca, an Italian herbal liquer of the variety every European country seems to have – ie., medicinal, dozens of secret ingredients and disgusting.  The main character, a middle-aged British gentleman, Gerald Samper moves to the Italian coast to get away from it all (and of course to restore an old farmhouse using his DIY skills) only to be assaulted by the musical compositions of his aptly named Eastern European neighbor, Marta.  Hilarity and misunderstanding ensue as well as some fake recipes at the hand of the gourmand Gerry, including smoked cat stews and lychee toast.  

Amazon link here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cooking-Fernet-Branca-James-Hamilton-Paterson/dp/0571220908

If you want to try Fernet Branca: http://www.67wine.com/sku010671.html

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Bill Buford: Heat

Posted by nybookworm on March 27, 2009

heat_bill_bufordI mentioned Heat (2006) in one of my earlier posts because it was one of the first food/chef-related books I read and it was a great beginning.   Heat is Bill Buford’s attempt to understand the “back office” of an expensive up-market restaurant, in this case Babbo in NYC ,which is the flagship restaurant of famous Italian (cuisine not heritage) chef Mario Batali.  In order to do that he begins by working all of the shifts of the Babbo kitchen and progresses to follow the path of Batali’s training by going to Italy to apprentice under a pastamaker and a butcher.  Buford is a journalist by trade and his style of analytical writing works with this format and topic.  You learn all kinds of things about the kitchen of an expensive restaurant you’d rather not know (e.g,  they cook all of the pasta in one pot the entire night) but it is a fascinating look into a world that most of us would never otherwise see.  This is a great book if you love food, enjoy dining out or generally love a book to make you feel like you’re spying on a world you would never otherwise be permitted to enter.

Amazon link to Heat here: http://www.amazon.com/Heat-Adventures-Pasta-Maker-Apprentice-Dante-Quoting/dp/1400041201

Posted in Beach Reading, Chefs/Food, Nonfiction | 2 Comments »

Marco Pierre White: The Devil in the Kitchen

Posted by nybookworm on March 24, 2009

marcopw1Marco Pierre White is sort of the original celebrity chef enfant terrible.  He trained Gordon Ramsey and Mario Batali and was the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin stars (he’s British, his mother was Italian).  He was a famous chef before the Food Network and before televised cooking shows.  He wrote this book well after he’d become a success and even retired and in many ways that very much colors the narrative.  It is clearly a look back and some parts of his life that he now finds nostalgic probably weren’t as rosy while he was living them.  He makes no effort to hide his personality conflicts with most everyone that crosses his path and the portrait that emerges is that of a slightly bitter and vain man with a talent that was clearly very much ahead of his time.  I enjoyed this book but it was one of the last in a long line of cooking books/chefographies I read and don’t think was the best.  If you’re a beginner in the genre, I would suggest “Heat” or “Kitchen Confidential” both a little more easily digestable if only because they’re more contemporary and take place in American kitchens with American food.  I did like this book, though and if you want to understand one of the pioneers of the generation of chefs everyone recognizes today, this book is the one to read.

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