08 May 2010

Weekend Cooking: Good Reading

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


This week I was going through some of my cookbook shelves and came across some books I've owned for a while (as in years) but haven't yet gotten a chance to read. I thought I'd share two of my finds.

I loved Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef, so when his next book, The Soul of a Chef, came out in 2000, I bought it immediately. I am fascinated with the Certified Master Chef exam, which (when the book was written) cost almost $3000 and was near-impossible to pass. Here is the publisher's summary:
In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, Michael Ruhlman journeys into the heart of the profession. Observing the rigorous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country, Ruhlman enters the lives and kitchens of rising star Michael Symon and renowned Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. This fascinating book will satisfy any reader's hunger for knowledge about cooking and food, the secrets of successful chefs, at what point cooking becomes an art form, and more.
And to give you a feel for the prose, here is a random teaser:
[Y]ou accepted the implicit obligation of excellence: Every effort would be your absolute best. Otherwise it was simply not worth doing. At the same time, you accepted that your best was never your best and never could be because you could always work faster, cleaner, more efficiently. (p. 129)
Very true, although this philosophy could drive you crazy.

The Soul of a Chef at Powell's
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Published by Penguin/Viking 2001
ISBN-13: 9780141001890


The essay collection It Must've Been Something I Ate is Jeffrey Steingarten's follow-up to his award-winning The Man Who Ate Everything. I had hoped that sometime over the last eight years, I would have read at least one of the short pieces in this book, after all I really enjoyed Steingarten's first collection. I, however, must have been distracted, and the book has languished on my shelves.

Here's the publisher's summary.
In this outrageous and delectable new volume, the Man Who Ate Everything proves that he will do anything to eat everything. That includes going fishing for his own supply of bluefin tuna belly; nearly incinerating his oven in pursuit of the perfect pizza crust, and spending four days boning and stuffing three different fowl—into each other—to produce the Cajun specialty called “turducken.”

It Must’ve Been Something I Ate finds Steingarten testing the virtues of chocolate and gourmet salts; debunking the mythology of lactose intolerance and Chinese Food Syndrome; roasting marrow bones for his dog , and offering recipes for everything from lobster rolls to gratin dauphinois. The result is one of those rare books that are simultaneously mouth-watering and side-splitting.
The essays take us from Italy to France to California as we follow Steingarten on his food journeys. I think I'll start with the essay on the lobster roll. Here's the second paragraph:
How, you are silently wonderingly, does a lobster couple practice sexual intercourse? That is a question I had often asked myself but, until a few weeks ago, lacked the mettle and initiative to investigate. For it was then that, lost in the trancelike state into which eating a lobster roll with french fries and the tiniest green salad at the Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village had plunged me, I was first able to acknowledge how little I truly understood the life cycle of the lobster, especially the sex part. An intense hunt for the facts immediately ensued.
I know I'm going to love these essays . . . I just need to find some extra reading time.

It Must've Been Something I Ate at Powell's
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Published by Knopf, 2003
ISBN-13: 9780375727122

By the way, both books include a few recipes, but neither is a cookbook. Hope your weekend is wonderful! I can't wait to see what's going on in your kitchen.


Beth 5/8/10, 6:57 AM  

These both sound interesting, particularly the first one. I did finish a semi food related book this week--The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which made me wonder what emotions a person would taste in my food!

Marg 5/8/10, 7:17 AM  

Choc banana bread (by request!) for me this week.

Sandy Nawrot 5/8/10, 7:58 AM  

Well that is the real issue, isn't it? Finding the time. I really want to read that first one. I think maybe what you should do next year (like how I am delegating to you?) is do a foodie reading challenge. That would be one way to ensure I read books like this!

Julie P. 5/8/10, 8:36 AM  

Like you I have so much I know I'll love and just need to find the time to get to it. I'll be back tomorrow with my link.

caite 5/8/10, 9:15 AM  

I was watching that TV show about lobstermen on TLC or the Discovery Channel recently and saw a segment about the sex lives of lobsters....

JoAnn 5/8/10, 10:26 AM  

Isn't it amazing what you can find browsing your own shelves?!

Margot 5/8/10, 11:59 AM  

You picked two good authors to tell us about. I haven't read Michael Ruhlman but I'm reading The Man Who Ate Everything. I'm just taking my time with it, one essay at a time.

Sandy mentioned a food book challenge and that reminded me of how I first met you. It was the Books About Food Challenge. I really enjoyed the books everyone read for that challenge even though there were only a few of us. Now the food book challenge has transferred, at least for me, to Weekend Cooking.

Robin M 5/8/10, 12:42 PM  

Both sound very good. The first "Best" quote is interesting. Always aspire to do better. The second book - sounds like it will be a hoot to read - enjoy!

Beth F 5/8/10, 1:14 PM  

Margot: I remember that -- in fact I met most of blogging friends through challenges, which is one reason I really like them.

I started Weekend Cooking as an incentive to read more foodie books and to review some of my favorite cookbooks. Glad you are using it for the same kind of thing.

Chrisbookarama 5/8/10, 2:57 PM  

That last quote reminds me of the book I once read: The Secret Lives of Lobsters. It was actually kinda interesting.

bermudaonion 5/8/10, 8:29 PM  

Both books sound good! If you figure out a way to find extra reading time, please pass along the secret. I'll have a Weekend Cooking post up tomorrow.

Michele 5/8/10, 10:37 PM  

I hope you write more about the essays....they sound fabulous. I'm so enamored of good food and it's preparation, yet I do none of it myself. Freud would have a field day with me.

Anyhoo...it's Mother's Day cupcakes this week for me.

Jane in AUSTRALIA 5/9/10, 7:30 AM  

this is Jane from um well I made the cauliflower cheese dish
and have joined your weekend cooking challenge

I didnt have anything else in with it
but I roasted some potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato and had that with it - a meatless roast.
It was so yummy
or green peas too
I am reaidng around your blog now this thing has trouble with how I sign in I will do my best
I usually just sign Jane of Janezworld
my domain is janezworld.com and you will find my blogs there

Heather 5/9/10, 11:13 AM  

Oh! I have that Ruhlman books somewhere. I wonder where it got too...hm... Anyway, it does sound good, maybe I'll unearth it from wherever it is and give it a go. I've been itching to read some foodie books anyway.

We are still enjoying all the fresh, homegrown strawberries, so I made a cake this weekend. Next week, maybe it will be those Strawberry Scones!

S. Krishna 5/10/10, 9:37 AM  

I didn't even think about the fact that Under the Tuscan Sun fits with Weekend Cooking, but it really does! I've added it!

Heather 5/10/10, 6:04 PM  

Both of those sound like terrific reads. As for increasing my reading time, I have been downloading audio books from the library and listen when driving on longer trips and when I am at the sewing machine or in the kitchen cutting vegetables, which is mundane at the best of times.

Amy 5/21/10, 10:27 PM  

I loved The Making of a Chef and had no idea he wrote a sequel! Where have I been? This is definitely going to need to go onto my TBR list. Thanks!

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