January 26, 2009

Books and Books and Books

As I’ve said before, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do everything I want to do, make everything I want to make and read everything I want to read. Despite the fact that I don’t read everything I want to, I do read a lot and thought it was about time I shared some of what I’ve read and what I’m currently reading. Besides cookbooks, I like reading general food nonfiction. Three that I’ve just finished are Heirloom by Tim Stark, The Man Who Ate the World by Jay Rayner and Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud.

Heirloom is the story of how Stark went from living in Brooklyn and working as a management consultant to growing heirloom tomatoes in Pennsylvania and selling them at the Union Square Green Market and to top New York chefs. The path he took is anything but an easy one and the amount of work that he put into accomplishing his goals is staggering. It’s a testament to the lengths people will go to if they’re passionate about their work. It makes me wish I could commit to something so fully.

The Man Who Ate the World is not a book to read on an empty stomach because yours will be growling as soon as you tuck into Rayner’s description of the meals he’s eaten in search of the perfect dinner. This book left me insanely jealous at times and somewhat saddened at others as one lavish meal blended into another. It was as though enjoying the food had taken a backseat to finding ‘The Perfect Dinner”. Clearly though, this is a man who loves to eat and his adventures are certainly entertaining.

Letters to a Young Chef is a fast read full of advice for a young chef starting out in a new career. The information is not necessarily new but is presented in a reader-friendly and interesting manner as Boulud combines autobiography with advice as well as recipes. What he presses on the most is having passion for what you do because without it you might as well get out of the business right now. What I enjoyed most was reading about Boulud’s personal experiences and the wealth of people he’s worked with. I love a good story.

I’ve also got a stack of cookbooks that I’ve read through but haven’t made any recipes from yet. I know some of you must have these books as well, so if you’ve made anything from them, let me know!

Giada’s Kitchen by Giada De Laurentiis- To be quite honest with you, I’m not all that fond of the bobble head, at least not when she’s on TV. I like her in written form though and have a few of her books, including the pasta one which is quite good. Her newest book, Giada’s Kitchen is full of photos and well layed out recipes with her typically Italian angle to it all. I’ve been eyeing up her recipe for Orange and Chocolate Zeppole, (essentially little donuts) and they’re first on my list of things to make.

Martha Stewart’s Cooking School by Martha Stewart- love her or hate her, you can’t dispute how successful Martha Stewart is. I used to have issues with Martha as I’d failed miserably with a few of her recipes but all of that changed when I got my hands on her Cookie book, which I’ve written about here and here. That book put Martha back in my good graces so I was looking forward to reading her latest book, Cooking School. In typical Stewart fashion, this hefty book is chockfull of information and serves as a great reference source for the home cook. Step by step photos, diagrams and tips in the sidebar are all extremely useful. This book covers the basics which are the building blocks of cooking and baking and necessary techniques to learn.

Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern- As the title would imply, this book is divided by themes for Friday night dinners. It’s not my favourite method of organization although it makes for an interesting read when you’re not searching for something in particular. Each menu, ranging from 100 Mile Diet Dinner to Australian Dinner to Graduation Dinner, begins with a story and includes everything you’ll need from appetizers through to desserts. One of the menus includes falafel which I feel like I have to make just to prove to my parents that their impression of falafel, (ie-“Falafel is just plain awful!”) is incorrect.

The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book by Elizabeth Baird and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen- For as long as I can remember we’ve had a Canadian Living Cookbook at home. In fact, it was the source of my first chocolate chip cookie recipe. The new Baking Book includes all form of baked sweets, (including chocolate chip cookies complete with variations) but also branches out to include bread and savoury baking as well. It’s the type of book that you start adding sticky notes to recipes that you want to make and before you know it, half the book has a sticky on it. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I left this book at my Aunt’s house for a while and when I went to retrieve it I found her furiously scribbling down recipes that she’d bookmarked to make.

Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid- If you’ve seen any of Alford and Duguid’s previous cookbooks you’ll know that they’re much more than strictly recipes and this one is no exception. This book is as at home on the coffee table as it is in the kitchen. Bright, vivid photography captures the food, but also the culture of the people, their land and way of life in the outlying areas of China. Woven among photos and recipes are Alford and Duguid’s travel tales and memories which lend particular impact to the roots of the recipes. Every time I look at this book I can imagine how good my kitchen will smell when I’m cooking from it.

As if trying to find time to cook from those books wasn’t taking up enough of my time, I’m also in the process of reading: The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman, Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page and Cooking For Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser.

And in addition to the myriad of books I want and need to read, are also blogs which demand my attention. Two in particular that I particularly enjoy but only recently got around to adding to my blog roll are Notes from the Kitchen and Line Cook. Notes from the Kitchen is written by Michael Laiskonis, pastry chef at Le Bernadin in New York. His writing is both thought provoking and inspiring, I only wish he updated more often because I like his style so much. As if he knew this, he’s started a second, slightly different blog, called Workbook with an emphasis on the day-to-day stuff that he’s working on which I find especially interesting as it’s like getting a peak into his train of thought and recipe development. Line Cook is written by Richie, a sous chef at Nopa Restaurant in San Francisco and is a real insight into working in a professional kitchen. It’s also pretty funny, full of kitchen humour and random thoughts. Be sure to check out quotations from Corey, they’re especially good.

And lastly, I have to point out the bookshelf in the top photo. Dad built it for me as my new acquisitions were stacking up in towers around my computer and needed a better home than the floor. It won’t be long before I need another one…


breadchick said...

What a lovely bookshelf! I love how it shows the books off so nicely.

AND not to mention, that is quite a reading list there. I've a few of these but I've just "wish listed" some of them.

Snooky doodle said...

wow how many nice books. Interesting ones too!

Maria said...

I love all of your books! I have an obsession with cookbooks!! Thanks for the list...I need to get some of those!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've got a few of those on my bookshelf, too!

Cynthia said...

Thanks for these reviews. Now I have to pick up some more reading matter.

Dragon said...

I have a cookbook and food book addiction myself (including some of these books). I have 2 bookshelves that are full and now I've started stacking books in piles around my bed. Maybe I need help. :)

RecipeGirl said...

Nice spot for your cookbooks :) I see quite a few that I might have to investigate!

Mrs. L said...

I had to smile because every book you mentioned is either sitting in my stack to read or on my wish list!

Manggy | The Gastronomer's Bookshelf said...

OmiGOSH, Brilynn, I am totally jeeealous over your shelves. I hope when your schedule clears up a lot more, you can find the time to cook out of the books, and maybe you'd like to review one (or twenty, heh) over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf! I would love to hear your opinions!

... In other news, Giada looks more bobbleheaded than EVer on the cover of that book, lol :)