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How to Peel a Peach: And 1,001 Other Things Every Good Cook Needs to Know [Hardcover]

Perla Meyers
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

March 19 2004
EVERY HOME COOK HAS QUESTIONS

and How to Peel a Peach has the answers. Whether you're a bona fide beginner or a kitchen dynamo, chances are you've been stumped by culinary questions great and small. In these pages, wise, worldly culinary professional Perla Meyers comes to the rescue, offering a wealth of information about ingredients, equipment, and techniques in a forthright Q&A format. With timeless recipes that illustrate her points, it's as if this prominent cooking teacher is by your side, conducting a series of special classes just for you.

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From Publishers Weekly

To create fantastic food you need more than a book of recipes, says Meyers."To me," she writes, "this is where cooking begins-with the intimate knowledge of one's ingredients, how to shop for them, store them and cook with them." In this marvelous reference guide, the award-winning author passes that intimate knowledge along to her readers, answering questions like "how can I tell a really fresh cabbage?" and "is it a good idea to marinate veal?" Most of the book is presented in a Q&A style, with lovely recipes interspersed throughout, but each section also begins with a mini-essay in which Meyers describes her love for food or her beliefs about cooking. In "Poultry," she explains that "chicken was a religion" in her family; every bird was bought fresh in a Barcelona market. Like Meyer's previous cookbooks (Spur of the Moment Cook; The Seasonal Kitchen), this volume emphasizes fresh seasonal cuisine and down-to-earth economy. She suggests, for example, that tomatoes be tucked under the bed to ripen and that readers eat "the beautiful, black, pearl-like seeds nestled together at [a papaya's] core." Meyers is also alert to seasonal and regional variations: carrots are sweeter in the Northwest than in the Northeast, she says; look for blood oranges from December to May. There is a fantastic final chapter on grilling. Meyers is up-front about her bias towards Italian and Spanish food, and the book does contain a few omissions. (Radishes, for example, are ignored.) But these gaps are minor in such an otherwise complete book. Inspiring for the advanced cook, invaluable for the novice, this volume will be a treasured reference guide in many kitchens. 150 recipes.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

The Seasonal Kitchen, Meyers’s first cookbook, was published in 1973, long before cooking with fresh local ingredients became a mantra for chefs and good cooks everywhere.  Several titles in that same vein (e.g. From Market to Kitchen) followed.  Her new book features hundreds of culinary Q&As (the questions are culled from Meyers’s workshop students), along with her favorite recipes in each category, from vegetables to fruit; also included are chapters on equipment and stocking the pantry.  There is a lot of information here, and while some readers will appreciate the format, others might wish for an easier-to-use organizational style – i.e., a factual section on cooking duck rather than a series of questions, e.g., “I’d like to buy a duck breast, but I don’t know how to prepare it” and “I love to grill chicken but have never attempted duck – can it be done?”  Nevertheless, Meyers is knowledgeable, and her recipes sound delicious.  For most collections. (Library Journal, May 15, 2004)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Great, Up to Date Reference to Break out of Recipes April 16 2004
Format:Hardcover
(...)One can get satisfaction from the fact that this means established writers like Ms. Meyers can put their old wine into new bottles and publish new titles with new twists and new wisdom. The format of this book, 'How to Peel a Peach' is a perfect fit for a recognized culinary authority. It collects into a single source all the facts, tips, opinions, and wisdom about food that you may get from a year's viewing the Food Network or a five-year subscription to 'Martha Stewart Living'. This is not the kind of material you will typically find in a book by Tom Colicchio or Mario Batali or Eric Rippert or Joel Robuchon. These authors will provide great insights into applying great artistry to superior ingredients. They may even give good information on what makes a great artichoke or a great tomato, but they will not tell you much about the difference between fresh chilies, dried chilies, and chili powder.
The primary strength of the book is precisely in it's pulling together between one pair of covers just about any information you may commonly want about fruits and vegetables and starches and fats and fish and chickens and so on... Almost all of the information is presented in a question and answer format, which has an appeal, but which has some drawbacks in a book that attains its greatest value as a reference. I suspect the format leads to inconsistent coverage of similar topics and misses on showing the similarities in cooking, for example, squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.
Another major strength of this book is that almost all the information in the book is top quality. I was truly impressed by the consistent quality of the advice from page to page and from subject to subject. I failed to find any general statement with which I would argue.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, Up to Date Reference to Break out of Recipes April 16 2004
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
(...)One can get satisfaction from the fact that this means established writers like Ms. Meyers can put their old wine into new bottles and publish new titles with new twists and new wisdom. The format of this book, `How to Peel a Peach' is a perfect fit for a recognized culinary authority. It collects into a single source all the facts, tips, opinions, and wisdom about food that you may get from a year's viewing the Food Network or a five-year subscription to `Martha Stewart Living'. This is not the kind of material you will typically find in a book by Tom Colicchio or Mario Batali or Eric Rippert or Joel Robuchon. These authors will provide great insights into applying great artistry to superior ingredients. They may even give good information on what makes a great artichoke or a great tomato, but they will not tell you much about the difference between fresh chilies, dried chilies, and chili powder.
The primary strength of the book is precisely in it's pulling together between one pair of covers just about any information you may commonly want about fruits and vegetables and starches and fats and fish and chickens and so on... Almost all of the information is presented in a question and answer format, which has an appeal, but which has some drawbacks in a book that attains its greatest value as a reference. I suspect the format leads to inconsistent coverage of similar topics and misses on showing the similarities in cooking, for example, squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.
Another major strength of this book is that almost all the information in the book is top quality. I was truly impressed by the consistent quality of the advice from page to page and from subject to subject. I failed to find any general statement with which I would argue. There were some specifics on which I suspect the author may have not been careful enough to avoid short-term changes in the marketplace. On mustards, for example, she quite correctly gives the same opinion as a recent `Cooks Illustrated' article, saying that Dijon mustard has a relatively short shelf life. A good mustard may hold its bite for maybe about three months. Like `Cooks Illustrated' nine months ago, Ms. Meyers endorses the Maille brand of Dijon and discounts the American brand Gray Poupon. As luck would have it, in a recent article, `Cooks Illustrated' revisited mustards and found that aging bottles of Maille could not compare to a fresh bottle of Gray Poupon. Culinary wisdom changes and my observation is that Ms. Meyers is up to date on almost every issue. On seasoning meat, the latest thinking is to do it before searing. Ms. Meyers endorses this.
Yet another strength of the book is that the author is clearly not relying entirely on her own opinion. For many questions, the author quotes recognized authorities such as Maida Heather and Shirley Corriher especially on baking issues on which Ms. Meyer honestly confesses to not be an authority. The reliance on experts extends to referring to their books for important recipes as when she refers us to Julie Sahni and Madhur Jaffrey for recipes of garam masala.
One general argument I have with the book one I pick with every author who makes recommendations on things you should keep in your pantry. Buying any product with the expectation you will use it on some yet to be decided recipe is an invitation to waste. Ironically, my opinion on this is backed by none other than Madhur Jaffrey who answered the question on what to stock in the pantry by saying `Nothing'. Her solution is to shop only for the recipes that appeal to you. Eventually, you are sure to build up a supply of things you really need. Another general weakness I find in this book is the recipes. They seem to have no connection to the Q and A, and their choice seems to have no pattern. There are also some rather serious copy editing errors as when the roasting temperature for a roast duck was not stated.
The value you find in this book will depend on how much you already know and your style of cooking.
(...)
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Book! Nov. 17 2004
By Hard to Impress - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I recently developed a great interest in cooking, but didn't know what to get, what the differences betweenproducts were, what to use with what, etc. I cook for my boyfriend and myself every night and try to make different and exciting dishes, but in order to do that, you need to know specifics and understand some basics. That is what this book gives. I've always searched for a cookbook that I could read through easily without constantly having to checking other parts of the book for clarification. I've only gone through the first chapter "Kitchen Equipment & Utensils," but it's amazing how much knowledge I've already learned. I used to go into stores like Sur La Table because I always loved cooking equipment, but I never understood what the many utensils were meant to do. This book has helped me with a lot of basics - like what the differences are between cast-iron skillets, sauce pans, copper pans, etc. Also, she gives you tips throughtoutthe book - how to season the skillet, maintain your wooden cutting board, and much more. They're things you would normally learn from your mother. For someone who is just getting into cooking, she provides her favorite labels on things from types of equipment to brands of olive oil. I just got the book yesterday and haven't been able to put it down. Also, last night I made one of her recipes, Tuna Tartare. It was REALLY great! I've always ordered it in restaurants, but never tried to make it at home. My boyfriend was saying how he was full and couldn't really eat much. He finished his ENTIRE portion! Great stuff! The ingredients most recipes call for are things you will definitely be able to find at a local fine food/health store. I definitely recommend anyone just getting into cooking to get this book. Easy reading and easy to understand!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Questionable in many respects May 31 2008
By Eye Forget - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a bit mixed on this book. I have say I have not read more than half of it.

On the one hand there are scores of tips on subjects I know nothing about. These are helpful. On the other hand, there are scores of tips on subjects I know to be factually incorrect. Unfortunately, the combination results in a credibility issue where I'm not sure how good the book is.

An example is her choice knives are high carbon as opposed to stainless steel. I certainly agree with this. But then she recommends Wusthof and Henckels. Both are stainless steel knives. Another is her guidance on aluminum pots for electric stoves. If you can even get a new aluminum (American made) pot that is delivered with a flat bottom you're fortunate. If they're delivered with flat bottoms, they don't remain that way for long. On the subject of fine vinegars, France or the USA with hardly a mention of Italy's balsamicos which are priced commensurate with the fact they are the top of the heap.

Ms. Meyers recommendations of specific branded food ingredients are her opinions. Unfortunately, they don't hold up well in various tasting tests I've read and my own personal experience. Even French testing of mustards will frequently rate Grey Poupon well above many of the French brands. Her choice of the waxy tasting Maille is certainly debatable. Again, its her opinion and at times flies in the face of other respected chefs (real, not celebrity).

Ms. Meyers cooking education was done in the French part of Switzerland. As a result, her recipes are heavily influenced by the French school. Not a criticism but, in no way a universal dictum. French cooking has died from the center of culinary excellence. Be it popular opinion or cooking excellence, its not all that easy to find a French restaurant anymore. The top of the heap in New York is owned and run by Italians. The issue I have here is a beginner will miss a whole lot of great culinary experiences relying on just this book.

Although the author has a "bias" towards Italian cooking, its "Swissified" Italian. The omission of key ingredients and the substitution of creams and butters where olive oil rules is not Italian.

I've worked and lived in the US, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and the UK. I love great food and there is no shortage of great meals in any of these countries. As a cookbook, How to Peel a Peach is too narrow in scope.

Its a decent book but I would not buy it again.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A peachy book! Feb. 22 2006
By J. Gray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a hobbyist chef who enjoys entertaining friends and associates at dinner parties, I found the book filled with interesting tips, which might have been useless to more professional chefs but added to my more limited store of kitchen techniques. And the book is written in such a way that it compelled me just to read it, even when I wasn't looking for a specific suggestion or solution.
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and timeless Aug. 3 2013
By Cheryl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I first "discovered" Perla Meyers' book many years ago when I found a dusty copy at a thrift store. I thumbed through it and was impressed enough to buy it. Over the past few years it has become pretty worn, from my messy cooking habits, so time came for a new copy.
I'm a seasoned home cook. More seasons than I care to admit :)
I rarely find a cookbook in which I learn something new. I did with this one.
Whole fresh food the way it was meant to be enjoyed, love her story about the impromptu meal that had to be changed at the last minute, and why.
Stories are a great way to help us remember information.
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