Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tasty Reads: My Summer in Food Books

I'm finally knocking through a bunch of food reading this summer although right now, I'm reading a little palette cleansing Jane Austin. Here's a list of my food related titles (since I don't think you want to hear about Abundance, Sex with Kings, Dark Star Safari, or Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince). It's been great to get caught up.

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany: I loved Bill Buford's style and first-hand accounts of life on the line. It's also an eye-opening book on Mario Batali -- the good and the bad. And best of all, it's about Buford's time as an apprentice to an Italian butcher and the very real connection he gains to his food. (Worth it alone for the scene where he carries his NYC green market pig up to his apartment grossing out everyone from the cab driver to a guy in the elevator.)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals: Man, did I have some mixed opinions on this one. I thought his history and research on corn was fascinating. I also felt his observations and discussions of what CAFOs and what he calls "corporate farming," where naive and sensationalized. Pollan's style bugs me. He writes for an audience who's already bought what he's selling and it makes him lazy. I wanted to see studies, numbers, non-anecdotal proof of some of his assertions. Maybe it's because I grew up in cattle country, but I just didn't agree with a lot of how this book was written. I almost wish he'd just written a whole book about corn similar to Botany of Desire. (Ironically, this book created an "emperor has no clothes" effect in the foodie world. When it came out, everyone I talked to had read it and sang its praises. Now, when I speak to foodies and chefs, I notice that many are much more quick to discount Pollan, his overwrought hand waving, and large sections that need to be taken with large grains of salt.)

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously: I must be the last person in the food world not to have read this book, but I finally finished it and I loved it! Julie Powell won national acclaim in 2005 when she started The Project, that is, she gave herself one year to cook her way through Julia Child's entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1 and blogged about it. I'll never look at Oeufs au Buerre Noire again the same way -- or kidneys, pate, or canard pate en croute for that matter. (It has made me want to renew efforts to learn how to debone a duck.)

Coming Up:
The United States of Arugula: How We became a Gourmet Nation: I was asked to read this for an upcoming interview with the author on the WeLL, but I'm running behind. Author and Vanity Fair writer David Kamp takes us from "macaroni to pasta" as he chronicles our progress from plain food country to foodie nation and the people who took us there.

The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste: This biography of Parker covers the early years, the Wine Advocate start up, and I hope, will get into the real business of wine and just how influential Parker's "taste" has become -- to the benefit and detriment of the wine world.

And speaking of books, here's a big shout-out to Ivy Tech Culinary School grad Jill Vandegriff and her cookbook, written beginning to end in the past year as her externship project. Thanks to program chair Thom England for asking me to supervise. I had a blast! (Cookbooks are special animals and I'm lucky that over the years, I've learned the special process of bringing them into this world as well as the care and feeding of the authors.)


CorrND said...

braingirl, this was reported in the Indy Star last week:

New canal restaurant to open by end of July

The debut of Buggs Temple restaurant on the Downtown Canal is slated for later this month. Operating partner Chuck Mack said he hopes to hold a preopening July 28-30 to test the three kitchens and train staff.

Converted from a church, Buggs Temple sits at the north end of the canal near new executive offices being built for Clarian Health Partners.

-- Star report

christine (myplateoryours) said...

How about Tasty Movies? Ratatouille is a treat.