Barbara Kafka, author of such important and popular books as Roasting: A Simple Art
, Party Food
, and Microwave Gourmet
, doesn't just speak with the voice of authority when she addresses anything that might have to do with food, she speaks with the voice of the woman who invented fire. It's right there, that voice, deep in her soul. And it calls out loud and clear in page after page of what has to be one of her best books ever.
Soup is the blood in Barbara Kafka's veins. "When I am tired and want comfort," she writes, "or when I want to share happiness, or just when I want something full of flavor, my first desire is soup." It is through soup that Kafka embraces the generations of her family, her husband's family, the families of her children's spouses. It is through soup that Kafka embraces the world. "Every culture has its soups and the soups may be said to represent them."
The book begins with a brief overview of technique ("How to Boil Water"), then drops right into a section she calls "Family Soups." Here are the soups Kafka identifies with her grandmother and mother (Chicken Soup and Split-Pea Soup, respectively), her husband (Winter Duck Soup), her own youth (Gazpacho), her adult nature (Veal Soup with Fennel), as well as soups linked to other members of her family. It's as personal as looking through the Kafka family photo album with the author at your side.
From that base, Ms. Kafka moves on to the world of soups, be they of a vegetable nature, or those that rely on various birds or meats or seafoods. She winds down with stocks, noodles, dumplings, sauces, and the like.
It's a masterful production: simple, clear, uncluttered, direct, and thorough. It's a book that opens the senses to the world much as the steam rising off a bowl of lovingly made soup. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Kafka (Roasting: A Simple Art; The James Beard Celebration Cookbook, ed.) is known for her strong opinions and thorough probing of her subjects, and this encyclopedia of soup lore and nearly 300 recipes follows that pattern. The recipes are terrific. Who could argue with hearty Winter Duck Soup, refreshing Simple Celery Soup, festive Tortilla Soup, elegant Cold Pea and Mint Puree with Shrimp or a Spicy Peanut Butter Soup that can be served hot or cold? Meal-in-a-pot soups such as Turkey Soup Meal with Swiss Chard are particularly promising. The organization, however, is eclectic and prevents the book from being a fully functional reference work. Kafka starts off with soups that have been important to her family members and then divides them roughly by ingredients (e.g., poultry, fish, vegetables). But since most soup recipes blur these boundaries, the divisions are confusing. Sour Cherry Soup ends up stuck in a chapter on vegetable soups (subdivided into hot and cold), and Japanese Shabu Shabu lands in the meat chapter, although it contains plenty of vegetables. A section on stocks features five different chicken stocks alone, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Chicken Stock, which is recommended for only one recipe. The chapter on noodles, dumplings and other additions to soup is wonderful, and Kafka's humor is enjoyably sly (a segment on using nonreactive cookware is labeled "Pot and Acid"). With this much choice to page through, ranging from Garlic Broth to Stewed Eels Comacchio Style, readers will most often agree that, in this case, the path to the treasure is also the treasure. 60,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC/ Good Cook main selection; 10-city author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.