Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I think there's a lot more to enriching your cooking mind than just reading about food. There are indirect ways and means of broadening your culinary experience that have more to do with culture, spirit, family, arts, religion, community, fortune, misfortune, growth, quest, or emotion than they do with emulsion, fond, umami, or crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside.
That said, I don't read nearly as much about food as I used to, and when I do, I look for writers who can convey those themes I mentioned above with vigor and ease. The last book that really hit me in that regard was The Soul Of A Chef. Ruhlman rules because nobody in this genre combines strong wordcraft and depth of feeling with culinary knowhow like he does, except probably Bill Buford. I think there's something about mashing up journalism and culinary that produces these special works.
As far as non-culinary goes, I'm reading That Old Ace In The Hole by Annie Proulx. My first read of hers, and I'm very impressed. I feel like I'm in good hands. I just finished Under A Hoodoo Moon by Mac Rebennack (Dr. John). I'm chipping away at The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin between other books.
I always have a stack of cookbooks on my desk at work, and I'd say that my go-to book right now is Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. He has such a non-holy approach to things, I'm glad he seems to be holding strongly to that as his star rises. It makes him the closest thing to an everyman cook, the way no chef could be. People who inspire curiosity and joy in culinary are ultimately the ones that we need the most to help re-invigorate the can-do culinary spirit in our country and put the dreck purveyors out of business. So my money is on Bittman.
Thank you for participating, David! Check back to see who answers the question next time and what other books are recommended.
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Tara Austen Weaver