Profile for B. Marold > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by B. Marold
Top Reviewer Ranking: 7,152
Helpful Votes: 549

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
B. Marold "Bruce W. Marold" (Bethlehem, PA United States)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
by John T. Ash
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from CDN$ 7.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Master Classes on Culinary Techniques. Highly Recommended, April 13 2004
Author John Ash's rare combination of a professional chef's experience combined with a teacher's ability to communicate has produced this remarkable and welcome tutorial on how to execute various cooking tasks. The book lives up to the many blurbs from culinary luminaries headlined by a quotable from Emeril Lagasse on the front cover. The book is so good, it enhances my opinion of the commending writers for having the foresight to endorse the book.
On a very glib level, the book is a cross between Alton Brown's knack for explaining with Tom Colicchio's depth of culinary insight. The first stroke of genius is the organization of the chapters into a section on 'flavor makers', a second section on techniques, and a third section on important ingredients. Learning about cooking has often struck me to be very similar to learning about chess. For the millions of combinations of ingredients (moves) there are really just a few simple rules one can learn with hundreds of variations posed by the moves of your opponent. One simply cannot learn chess by studying. You can only learn by playing (cooking) and by slowly gaining first hand experience with ingredients and the results of applying techniques. The author has accommodated this analogy by dividing cooking into three areas of discourse, loosely comparable to the opening (ingredients), middle game (techniques) and ending (flavor makers). I am sure this analogy will not bear too much analytical weight. It succeeds if it highlights the fact that you must learn cooking by actually working with foods and experiencing its behavior, smell, and taste.
I have occasionally been disappointed by such promising titles such as Tom Colicchio's 'How to Think Like a Chef', but my disappointment has been part of the lesson and not a failure of Colicchio's book. He gives lots of recipes and very few general principles. Ash's book is no different in that there are only a few general principles and plenty of recipes, although the genius of Ash's presentation makes the book satisfying all the way through. While Colicchio and Charlie Trotter and Eric Rippert, great chefs all, have written inspired books about cooking in general, Ash is a professional educator as well as being a talented chef.
One way of viewing Ash's book is to see it as a visit from the Snap-On tool supply truck. Reading the book furnishes your mental toolchest with eighteen (18) tools that can be used in a broad range of applications. My favorite example is the lesson called 'Vinaigrettes: Not Just for Salads'. As the title indicates, vinaigrette is one of those 'Swiss Army Knife' preparations like a marinara sauce. It can easily be used in a lot of different situations with great results. Ash doesn't limit himself to the olive oil / vinegar / mustard / shallot / salt and pepper classic and it's applications. He brings in citrus as the acid, stocks as part of the liquid, honey, miso, soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, and dried fruits. He extends the lesson to advice on how to pair vinaigrette to the composition of other elements in a dish or a meal. I also welcome his mentioning of a brand of corn oil prepared in a way which calls up the picture of artisinal olive oil production. The oil, he claims, actually tastes like corn. What a concept!
The lessons on the other four 'flavor makers', Salsas, Pestos, Marinades, and Sauces all follow the same pattern of broadening our understanding of these preparations. The greatest contribution of all these chapters is not that they show you how to make these specific eight or ten or twelve recipes. The contribution is that they show you how to improvise with these ingredients. I can still remember the revelation I experienced when I realized that pesto / pistu is not just for pasta. I was amazed when for the first time I saw it being used as a garnish to soup. There is a lot of this kind of horizon expanding exposition going on in these pages.
The selection of topics for techniques and for ingredients is equally inspired. In a sense, there is even more illumination in these sections than in 'flavor makers' since both sections contain at least one surprising topic. Techniques gives us a lesson on oven drying, a method which I have seen used here and there, now and then, and highlighted as a general tool only in books covering Raw Foods techniques. Ash brings the technique into the main stream as a routine tool for the home cook. The ingredients section includes a chapter on soy foods which has a distinction between Chinese and Japanese tofu, the first time I've seen this distinction made. This section also discusses miso, relatively new to American culinary vocabularies, and Tempeh, which may be quite new to most Americans.
I do not know much about wine, but I welcome it in all sorts of cooking applications. Therefore, I was delighted to find that the final essay was a concise, excellent discussion of wines as they are used in cooking. True to the end, the book's food facts are accurate in it's addressing the question of whether cooking drives off the alcohol. The book's discussion of the issue is deeper than any other I have seen, in that it gives estimates of how much alcohol remains after various cooking techniques heat the added alcoholic ingredient. The discussion is crowned by a clear explanation of what alcohol adds to dishes in language that makes sense to educated lay cooks. There is none of the meaningless statements that alcohol is 'a conductor of flavor'.
This book is not a complete text on cooking methods. For that, see, for example, Madeleine Kamman's 'The New Education of a Cook' But, this is an exceptional cookbook which really should be read from cover to cover.
Very highly recommended. Intermediate to advanced recipes, but good advice for novices.

The Bread Book: The Definitive Guide to Making Bread By Hand or Machine
The Bread Book: The Definitive Guide to Making Bread By Hand or Machine
by Sara Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 28.28

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting If you are a Bread Machine Person, April 12 2004
This 'the bread book' by Sara Lewis is subtitled 'The definitive guide to making bread by hand or machine'. This subtitle claim is definitively wrong, in that the book has only 140 pages of text to cover both manual and bread machine bread baking. In contrast, there are books on yeast breads alone that do not cover bread making machines or gluten-free breads that run to over 600 pages.
One may argue that the book achieves its 'definitive' credentials by covering, however briefly, all bread making topics. This claim is clearly unfounded, as the book makes no mention whatsoever of sourdough, sponges, poolish, or any other type of artisinal breadmaking.
The 'definitive' claim may be based on the dual focus on both manual and bread machine techniques. However, I believe this dual approach betrays the reader in that manual methods are severely compromised to fit the order of operations needed to use a bread machine in order that the procedures for the two techniques can be laid out in parallel. The clearest example is in the recipe for the 'Farmhouse white loaf' where the first step in the manual procedure simply duplicates by hand what the machine is doing. In a procedure optimized for hand or hand plus stand mixer technique, the yeast is bloomed in warm water with sugar before adding it to the dough, salt is not added until the yeast and flour have been well mixed so the salt does not impede the yeast action, and the butter is not added until the dough has been thoroughly kneaded.
The dependence on the bread machine paradigm also leads to handmade recipes that would probably not pass muster with a anyone with a devotion to tradition. Every other recipe I have ever seen for brioche requires at least 8 hours for the dough to rise before baking. This book specifies less than an hour. If you make this recipe, it will probably be taste, it will probably simply not be brioche.
I also suspect that the book is ignoring the difference between two different types of US yeast packaging and labeling. Fleishmans and every other US producer call the type of yeast that is bloomed in warm water and sugar 'active dry yeast'. The yeast for bread machines which does not require advance blooming is labeled instant or fast acting yeast. This book uses the term 'active dry yeast' as if it were 'instant' yeast. I suspect the recipes work if you use 'active dry yeast', but I am not sure you will achieve optimal results.
It is very important for US readers to know that this book was written in England and uses a UK vernacular throughout. On the good side, this means that all measurements larger than teaspoon or tablespoon are given in metric weight or volume, Imperial weight or volume, and by cup. All oven settings are also given in Fahrenheit, Centigrade, and Gas Mark. This is all very ecumenical, but it means that the book may be just a little tougher reading for a Yankee than it is for a Brit. There is a very handy conversion table for UK to US terms at the beginning of the book, but the number of entries just goes to show how much mental translation us Yanks will have to do as we read the book.
After so many negative findings in this book, I think it deserves some positive comments. The first is that the range of bread types covered by the book is quite broad. It is impressive to see that a bread machine is capable of doing such diverse products as pretzels, spiral (roulade) breads, fougasse, and corn bread. The caveat is that for some of the more diversely shaped breads as pretzels and roulades, the bread machine simply does not do the whole job. Rather, it typically mixes the ingredients, kneads, and does a first or first and second rise. The final shaping and baking must be done in a conventional oven.
In summary, for UK savvy readers, the book is very readable, its instructions are easy to follow, and it will probably give acceptable results; however, its pretensions on being definitive are misleading, and it should probably only be used by those who have and like using a bread machine. For Yanks who don't want a bread machine, get any one of the dozen good books on breadmaking by Peter Reinhart, Nancy Silverton, Rose Levy Beranbaum, or Bernard Clayton.

Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking
Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking
by Mark Bittman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.52
28 used & new from CDN$ 17.52

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best General Book on Fish. Highly Recommended, April 11 2004
Of all the single topics on which cookbooks have been written, it seems to me that fish is the most common. It is certainly true if you look at my library, where there are seven (7) volumes devoted to fish in general, fish of a particular region, or even one family of fish such as the salmon or oysters. Not only is it a popular subject, but it is a popular subject for prominent male cookbook authors. In my library alone, there are volumes by James Beard, James Peterson, Alan Davidson, and the current volume by Mark Bittman. All of these authors are simply dripping with awards for cookbook writing.
There are at least two different approaches one can take to a single subject cookbook. James Peterson in his books on Fish, Sauces, and Vegetables tends to take a deep look, with more details about a fewer number of recipes. Mark Bittman, in this book, tends to take exactly the opposite approach. His main selling point is that he is giving us 'more than 500 recipes for 70 kinds of fish and seafood'.
Fitting this approach, the book is laid out very much like an encyclopedia, with all articles on fish labeled by their common names, placed in alphabetical order. Each article begins with a taxonomic section giving both common and scientific names, common commercial forms, general description, substitutions, and reference to buying tips. The scientific name may not be very informative, as a common name such as shrimp may be applied to not only multiple species, but also multiple genera covering thousands of species. The general description is also a mixed bag in that it may be anything from physical description to geographical distribution to economic importance. The most important item in this header is the 'For other recipes see:' entry. This is where you see that a recipe that is good for conch, mussels, or oysters may also be good for clams. I get some sense that the author could have exercised some restraint here. As an example, consider that while squid and shrimp share the property of being done best by cooking very quickly, I may be reluctant to apply a long cooking squid recipe, the kind Mario Batali describes as giving a 'bottom of the sea' flavor to any kind of shrimp.
The essay introducing each named fish can vary from three pages for 'shrimp' down to three lines for 'tilapia'. The longer essays are very informative and, as far as I can see, very accurate. I can also add that they can express very strong opinions about some fish. The very short entry for tilapia dismisses the flesh of the fish as having an undesirable, murky flavor. The author gives no recipes for this poor fish and simply leaves us to consult the recipes for porgy and sea bass.
The number of recipes per fish is roughly proportional to the economic desirability and availability of the fish. Shrimp, for example, gets twenty recipes including three different versions of curried shrimp. Other classic recipes such as crab cakes also get more than one treatment. Oddly enough, the best-known American shrimp dish, the shrimp cocktail, is not here. Not that I really miss it. The twenty recipes do seem to cover the world, with a just about right distribution of recipes from America, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Rim.
Most recipes are concise without being overly sparse. The list of ingredients is better than many. For example, it goes to the trouble of specifying a 'dry' white wine for a sauce and it is precise enough to say  cup minced parsley rather than the less precise 'handful of parsley, minced'. The procedure is clear and I have yet to find any mistakes (I cannot say the same for the equally distinguished James Peterson's procedures). I prefer recipes written with numbered steps, with each step beginning on a new line, but I prefer good recipes to bad even more, and most of these recipes seem to be better than average.
As many, if not most of the recipes in this book are ethnic classics and not the invention of the author, the chance is good that they will appeal to those who are disposed to like the ingredients. If you don't like coconut, don't fault the author for giving recipes using coconut. Since there are so many different recipes from so many different culinary traditions, the chances that you will find something interesting to do with your lovely swordfish steak will be very high. As a food editor for 'The New York Times', Bittman has greater access to current and historical information about fish dishes than most, so the depth and reliability of the information herein is very high.
This book is by no means a complete book of fish cookery. There are some entries for escabeche and seviche, but not a word about sushi or sashimi. Of all the books I mentioned on Fish Cookery, I may prefer James Beard for the last word on recipes from America or Alan Davidson for recipes from the Mediterranean, but Bittman has given us a book which gives a broad coverage to recipes from around the world. He succeeds admirably in achieving his goal 'to teach you how to buy good, commonly available fish, and cook it quickly in a variety of basic and delicious ways.
Highly recommended. A better general reference for the average cook than other books in a crowded field.

Biscuit Bliss: 101 Foolproof Recipes for Fresh and Fluffy Biscuits in Just Minutes
Biscuit Bliss: 101 Foolproof Recipes for Fresh and Fluffy Biscuits in Just Minutes
by James Villas
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 69.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Great American Answer to Tapas and Mezes, April 10 2004
James Villas is an old school culinary writer. He was a friend and confidant of both James Beard and Craig Claiborne. He was born and raised in North Carolina and many of his books have featured Southern cooking subjects and styles. This book is no exception.
The book is an almost perfect follow-up to his last effort, 'Crazy About Casseroles' in that both books deal with a single subject which is at the core of both Southern and American cooking styles. I am especially fond of single subject cookbooks, whether the subject is a style of dish like gratins and casseroles or an ingredient like potatoes or eggs. Therefore, the score of this book starts with a score in my mind of four (4) stars instead of three (3) before I even read the first page.
The book's subject can be divided into two major topics. The first topic is basic biscuit techniques, covering all the variations in flour, leavening, fat, oven temperature, and dough versus batter. The second topic deals with how to apply all those various techniques to sweet and savory additions.
Techniques are covered in Chapters on 'Biscuit Basics', 'Plain Raised Biscuits', and 'Drop Biscuits'. The greatest virtue of basic biscuit technique is its simplicity. This does not mean a person can make good biscuits, much less make good biscuits on the first try, after reading a single recipe that gives no insight into biscuit subtleties. The first batch of biscuits I made a few years ago was from Jim Villas' mother's recipes he published in his memoir 'Between Bites'. I confess that the process had me puzzled, sticky, and a bit disappointed, even though I am sure I followed the instructions to a tee.
Part of the puzzle may be due to the fact that making biscuits is a lot more like making pastry than it is like making bread. While bread is vigorously kneaded to develop gluten and the starting mix of ingredients is often warm to accommodate the yeast or other organic starter, biscuits are worked with cold ingredients and low protein (soft) flour. The dough is worked hardly at all and is cut into disks while the fat is still in oatmeal flaked globs. Sounds like pastry to me.
As I have had a fair amount of experience with various recipes from both Southern bakers and baking experts, I can say with confidence that Mr. Villas knows his stuff when it comes to biscuits. I thoroughly endorse his recommendation to use a brand of Southern soft flour such as White Lily. I only have two disappointments with the discussion of techniques. First, Villas describes a classic Southern method of biscuit making wherein the cook empties an entire 5 pound bag of flour into a bowl, adds wet ingredients, salt, and leavenings, and creates a ball of dough in a depression in the dough. Yet, Villas does not give us the recipe for this technique. He doesn't even explain why he doesn't give a recipe. I know there are still serious Southern cooks who use this technique, as I saw one demonstrate the technique on Martha Stewart's show about a year ago. The second disappointment is that he has no basic recipe where the only fat is butter. I have used such a recipe by Nick Malgieri with White Lily flour and buttermilk, and I find it as good or better than Villas' mother's recipe. Otherwise, I think the coverage of biscuit techniques is tiptop. Were I writing the same thing, I may have included a table comparing the recipes. This may facilitate one's personal experiments in the technique. I would also argue that basic biscuit technique is a better starting point for adolescent bakers than the drop biscuit technique. I don't think drop biscuit technique is easier and the basic technique is more versatile.
The second main subject of the book is what you can do with biscuits and biscuit dough. This can be divided roughly into four areas: sweet additions, savory additions, scones, and biscuits as pastry. Appropriate to the title of this review, the range of variations possible in biscuits gives me the idea that a home entertainer can give all their books on French and Spanish and Italian and Greek 'little bites' recipes a rest and spend several months experimenting with hors d'ourves / antipasti / tapas / Mezes based on biscuits. As soon as I write this, I confess that even the lightest biscuits may be a bit heavy to stand alone among the martinis and margaritas, but I do suggest that you give the pizza and foccacia a rest and give these recipes a try. As biscuits, like chowder, are very close to being a true American invention, they are perfect as part of American cooking menus.
While I am often surprised at how new many kitchen techniques such as baking powder are, I am also often surprised at how old some methods are. Many techniques such as cooking in a bag and using packaged dough as stew topping are touted as new ideas based on marketed products, when actually the techniques are centuries old. Such is the case with using biscuits as a topping for pot pies and casseroles. Villas raises the veil from our eyes in revealing the historical sources for these old biscuit techniques.
I liked this book a lot and I recommend it to anyone who wishes to master biscuits and who may find a gold mine of quick, relatively easy recipes with a big 'wow' factor.
Highly recommended. Intermediate skill level.

The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore
The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore
by Harold McGee
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 25.18

5.0 out of 5 stars How You Too Can Apply Science to Food. Excellent Read, April 10 2004
Harold McGee is probably the most widely cited writer in American culinary writing today. Alton Brown literally genuflects at the mention of his name and complains that he is hard pressed to find a subject on which Herr McGee has not already explored at some length. His major work, 'On Food and Cooking' appears to be on the short list of Culinary Institute of America references for their students, next to Escoffier and their own references.
This work, 'The Curious Cook', is a bit different that the other work, in spite of the subtitle 'More Kitchen Science and Lore'. The larger book is largely theoretical. This book is largely experimental and its subtitle should be the title of the first and longest section 'Playing With Food'. The lesson taught here is probably the single most important lesson you can learn in any endeavor. That is, when in doubt, try a little experiment. When I was studying philosophy, this largely took the form of thought experiments, not unlike the development of a Science Fiction plot. 'What would happen if there were artificial people who were indistinguishable from biological humans. The result is the story 'Blade Runner'. When I worked with chemistry, this step was obvious. Oddly, I had to relearn the lesson when I became a professional programmer. It took a few years and more than a few books to learn the value of prototyping code, even for some of the most simple algorithms. All this means is that when you cook, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO TRY THINGS OUT WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF SEEING IF SOMETHING WORKS. My favorite example is in making and using a simple bechamel sauce to make macaroni and cheese or creamed chipped beef without having the sauce break.
I am constantly amazed at the blissful ignorance behind some common misstatements by very good professional chefs who have established themselves as celebrity educators on various TV cooking shows. I suspect the most common is the statement that laying meat into a hot saute pan sears the flesh to seal in the moisture. This misstatement is the subject of McGee's first chapter, where with a simple kitchen scale, he demonstrates what should be common sense to anyone with some knowledge of physics. Application of high heat reduces the moisture in the meat. This essay was published before the Food Network was a gleam in network entrepreneurs' eyes, yet Emeril and Tyler and Rachael and even Wolfgang repeat this misstatement on a regular basis. The lucky thing about this statement is that searing meat or any other food for that matter, has a very important benefit, in that it develops flavor through caramelization and the Maillard reactions. By design or by chance, the explanation of the Maillard reactions come in the very last chapter of the book, providing the reason we have been searing food for millennia.
There are other books that deal with food and science. Some of the most recent and most famous are 'Cookwise' by Shirley Corriher, 'I'm Only Here for the Food' by Alton Brown, and 'What Einstein Told His Cook' by Robert Wolke. All of these works are exceptionally good books. But, none of these works give the kind on encouragement and the kind of clues you need to find culinary answers on your own.
One warning may be in order. Science, i.e., the method of experimentation and observation is the most powerful method developed to answer questions and acquire knowledge, but it is certainly not enough to make you a superior cook. For example, I really like Alton Brown's 'Good Eats' shows and I often use his recipes, but whenever I see Mario Batali do something in a different way than Alton, I invariably use Mario's recipe or method rather than Brown's suggestion. The heart of the reason behind this is that Mario Batali is a very, very good professional chef and Alton Brown is not. Preparing food is a fine mix between knowledge and artistic expression. Professional chefs know the best ways to do things to achieve the most desirable culinary result, even if they do not know the scientific explanation for why they do things in a certain way.
I will warn you that some of the essays in Parts II and III are a bit long on reflection and a bit short on practical application. I may even go so far as to say some of these sections are just a bit dull. In spite of this, the first section on 'Playing with Food' plus the essays on aluminum and the Maillard reactions are all pure gold for the dedicated foodie.
Very highly recommended for anyone interested in food.

Cook And The Gardener
Cook And The Gardener
by Amanda Hesser
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.14
32 used & new from CDN$ 6.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Great addition to a delightful Genre. A foodie must read., April 9 2004
This review is from: Cook And The Gardener (Hardcover)
'The Cook and the Gardner' by the young culinary journalist who has added a thoroughly enjoyable chronicle of seasonal cooking and gardening to that very small niche of books joining horticulture with gastronomy. The only other recent volume in this very small corner of culinary writing is 'The Arrows Cookbook', a work dealing with the vegetable and herb garden attached to a three season Maine restaurant.
Like some other recent books on French life, this book develops a picture of a disappearing phenomenon, the chateau kitchen garden in rural France, tended by a dedicated gardener living on the premises. The chateau and garden is in Burgundy, owned by the renowned Anne Willen, the culinary schoolmistress of La Varenne Pratique. Oddly enough, Madame Willen never appears in this story and her works are cited less frequently than authors with a more historical bent, led by references to works by Elizabeth David. Willen appears primarily as the author's employer. The author's mentor, rather, is the Italian culinary authority, Nancy Harmon Jenkins. It is completely fitting with the antiquity of the context that most references in the book's exceptional bibliography are to works in French and Italian which were published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The cook of the book's title is the author, herself. The gardener of the book is the garrulous, elderly (mid seventies) Monsieur Milbert who, with his wife, occupies the chateau's gatehouse and who works the chateau's traditional walled garden which appears to be a square of 50 meters or more to a side. The author's story begins in early spring and spans four full seasons at the Burgundy chateau kitchen where her 'day job' is responsibility for meals served at the chateau for up to sixteen people at a sitting.
Monsieur Milbert on the face of it is a stock Hollywood movie character. He is very slow to warm to the young American interloper, in spite of the fact that they are colleagues in the employ of the same house. Eventually, of course, he begins working with Ms. Hesser and shares with her his thinkings on horticultural matters as she helps him with various tasks to work her way into his good graces. Unlike the Hollywood character, Monsieur Milbert never really breaks from his very, very provincial mindset. The gardener's horticultural practice is the oddest mix of superstition and practical experience. Almost every aspect of planting is governed by phases of the moon. Almost every expectation about future weather is based on a totally unscientific observation of unconnected phenomena. On the other hand, planting, pruning, weeding, and cultivating is based on sound wisdom gained from personal observation and hundreds of years of accumulated experience.
The culinary material in the book is ordered entirely by the season and by the location. In spite of the culinary pedigree of the landlord, the style of cooking appears to be derived less from 'haute cuisine' than from 'la cuisine Regionale'. The first clue is that there are very few references to drinking wine in the book. The only references to wine are as traditional ingredients to soups and braises. A sure sign that we are in Burgundy and not Provence is the fact that there are simply no recipes or even any references to eggplant.
Each season has its own section and introduction. For each season, there are recipes that are distinctive of the entire season. One of the most novel sets of recipes within this schema is the four seasonal recipes for stock. Spring opens with a stock based on beef bones. Summer contributes a vegetable stock. Autumn weighs in with a poultry stock (with a strict warning to not mix duck parts with other fowl). Winter completes the year with a return to a stock based on beef bones. On the matter of stocks, I am really happy to see Ms. Hesser rail against the stockpot as garbage collector for any odd piece of leftover gristle.
Within each season are three chapters on the three months in that season. Each month is represented by about a dozen recipes. Appropriate to the garden at the center of the story, most recipes are vegetarian and many meat dishes are based on chicken, game fowl, and rabbit. There are virtually no recipes for seafood, although there is some North African influence in the appearance of salt preserved lemons. The chapters also spend a lot of time with the kind of culinary work you would expect in a rural farm kitchen. A lot of space is dedicated to making preserves, pickles, and comfits. True to the very provincial environment, space is also dedicated to unusual fruits such as medlar and persimmon.
This is a culinary work which is meant to be read from cover to cover. If you have your own kitchen garden in US horticultural zones four through seven, you are bound to find the suggestions doubly enriching. If you are tied to a city apartment, you will still find plenty to enjoy. There is much to learn about cooking, but the real gold is in the battle between the French gardener and his neophyte cook comrade against the elements, to harvest truly magnificent seasonal vegetables.
A classic culinary read. Some advanced methods, but lots to learn from.

What Einstein Told His Cook
What Einstein Told His Cook
by Robert L Wolke
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 3.11

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Accurate Application of Science to Cooking, April 8 2004
This book is about what science can tell us about working with food. It is one answer to my wish that every TV chef who is attempting to teach cooking to us foodies take a two semester course in chemistry. The book is not a rigorous approach to the chemistry of sugars, salt, fats, chemical leavenings, heat, acids, bases, and the like. Rather, it is a collection of enhanced answers to questions posed to the author in a regular newspaper column. This makes the book more interesting to read, if a little less available as a resource to applying its teachings to new situations.
The second chapter on salt is a perfect example of the kind of misunderstandings this book clears up. More than one TV chef (and more than one cookbook author) has spoken at great length about differences in salt, giving one the impression that there is a basic difference between table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt. There is, of course, a difference, but that difference is based almost entirely on the physical differences, akin to the difference between liquid and frozen water. All salt is sodium chloride. By weight, no type of salt gives a saltier result than another. The very small additional differences between, say, kosher salt and sea salt are in the presence of incredibly small quantities minerals in addition to sodium chloride. Even differences in taste may be due to the differences in physical form. I have a sense that these considerations may be just a little too subtle to be worth all this fuss. I'm inclined to agree, until it occurs to me that if someone hears a statement that 'kosher salt' is less salty than table salt, they may use this as a reason to use more kosher salt and ignore the evidence of their senses that they are indeed eating a lot of salt. This becomes significant if one must lower their intake of sodium chloride.
This book addresses many such confusions, and addresses them accurately and persuasively. It does this so well that Alton Brown wishes he would have written this book. My suggestion to Alton Brown is that with the lesson of this book, he would be able to do a better job of it.
I may be stepping on an intellectual land mine here since I have not yet read Shirley Corriher's book 'Cookwise' so I do not know if she has already been over this territory, but here goes.
I think the definitive book on food science for the masses has not been written yet. This book covers many of the right topics and I found no inaccuracies in the science. But, the book suffers from being a collection of edited columns. Science is about theories explaining facts. For example, a full explanation of salt would involve a discussion of what a salt is, in general, and use this information to show, among other things, why salt is dangerous to people with hypertension and how chemicals other than table salt can influence body fluid volume in hypertensives.
A scientific discussion would extend the notion of salts to what it means to dissolve a salt in water. By doing so, it would clear up the most seriously abused work in cooking explanations. That word is 'dissolve' and it's various past, past perfect and pluperfect tenses. Almost every culinary demonstrator on TV and many writers in cookbooks misuse the term dissolve by applying it to the very different operations of creating an emulsion, melting, and creating a colloid.
I think what I am really recommending as some future Alton Brown project is a book that combines physics, chemistry, and physiology to give an UNDERSTANDING of food, cooking, and health. Understanding is the real goal of science, so that one can apply what one knows in one situation to cooking food in other situations. Strange as it may seem, this is an almost perfect characterization of what Herr Brown believes he is doing.
The subtitle of this book, 'Kitchen Science Explained' is a perfect representation of how this book is not science itself, but the carrying of science to the 'gentiles'. In itself, the title is a redundancy, since science itself is explanation incarnate.
This is a very good book. I found no errors (I was a professional chemist, so I would probably have found really bad errors if there were any) in science. I believe the writing is lucid and entertaining. I believe the author is always intellectually honest in saying when either he does not know the answer or if science in general does not yet have an explanation.
The only point of my ranting is that this is not the ideal book on food science which bridges the gap between the research of Harold McGee and the practical worlds of Alton Brown and Shirley Corriher. A book that comes a lot closer to this goal is McGee's book, 'The Curious Cook'.
I recommend this book to anyone with any curiosity about food. Excellent reading even if you don't cook.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2
by Julia Child
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 25.17
33 used & new from CDN$ 13.68

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary, superb finish to the complete work, April 7 2004
Rarely are we able to say with certainty that a book is at the top of its subject in regard and quality. This book, the continuation of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' by Julia Child and Simone Beck is certainly in that most unique position among cookbooks written in English and published in the United States.
This volume is truly a simple extension of the material in the original work, which was recently published in a 40th anniversary edition by its publisher, Alfred E. Knopf and its principle author, Julia Child. As told in Ms. Child's autobiography, the original manuscript brought to Judith Jones at Knopf ran to over a thousand printed pages. About two fifths of that material was put to the side and most of it appears in this second volume. All this means is that you are unlikely to really have a full coverage of the subject of French Cooking as intended by the authors unless you have both volumes.
The first chapter has a clear sign that this volume rounds out the work in that it gives soups a much more thorough coverage than the first volume. Most importantly, it includes recipes for that quintessential French dish, bouillabaisse. To complement this subject is coverage of seafood such as a tour of the anatomy of a lobster that would put seafood specialist cookbooks to shame.
The biggest single addition to the subject in this book is its coverage of baking and pastry. Here is one place where the book may be seen to diverge from its focus of the French housewife's cooking practice. As the book states clearly in the first chapter, practically no baking is done at home, since there is a Boulangerie on every street corner. I generally find the level of detail on baking in cookbooks specializing on savory dishes to be much too light to give the reader an adequate appreciation of the subject. This book covers baking with a level of detail which would make most baking book authors blush. A sign of this deep, quality coverage is the diagrams used to illustrate baking techniques. The line drawings typically succeed where photographs do not in that they can be easily incorporated into the text and the drawing can eliminate extraneous detail and show the reader only what is important in understanding the technique. The section on making classic French bread ends with a 'self-criticism' section we may nowadays call a debugging section. It lists several different things that may go wrong with your product, and how to fix them. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in only baking, let alone the rest of us.
The quality of presentation continues with the coverage of pastry. Some books on pastry give one pie dough. Some good books on pastry may give three or four. This book gives eight, with a clear indication of the differences in when to use the various doughs. Some books on pastry describe how to make puff pastry. This book gives a really complete explanation, with abundant diagrams. I suspect that very few people want to make their own puff pastry, but anyone who uses store-bought pastry will benefit from knowing how it is made. This section is worth five different expositions on the subject on the Food Network rolled into one.
Another major subject untouched in the original volume is the long chapter on Charcuterie. That is, the techniques needed to make sausages, salted pork and goose, pates, and terrines. Like the description of puff pastry, this chapter contains a lot you may never need, but then again, I am a great believer in serendipity. You never know where you may hit upon an idea to add interest to you cooking practice. The simplest product you can garner from these techniques is the method for making breakfast sausage, which needs no casing. The subject really wakes up when you realize that the subject arose as a method for preserving meats, just like canning and pickling were developed to preserve fruits and vegetables. If economy and the old hippie / whole earth catalogue ethic are your thing, this is something you will want to check out. And, I have seen this subject covered in recent books such as Paul Bertolli's 'Cooking by Hand', and this book's coverage of the material is more useful.
Another gem in this book is the coverage of desserts, including frozen desserts, custards, shortcake, meringue, charlottes, and on and on and on. The guidance on novel uses of puff pastry has probably been a source for more TV shows on the subject than you can count on your fingers. The recipe for leftover pastry dough is just another indication of how practical the material in this book can be.
The appendices contain 'stuff' that virtually no other cookbooks touch. One contains a cross listing of recipes for meat and vegetable stuffings. I did not have enough room in my review of volume one to cite the quality of the material on kitchen equipment. As both books have been updated several times since the early sixties, both contain modern tools such as the food processor and the latest heavy-duty mixer attachments. Aside from being as complete a catalogue of hand tools I have ever seen, I find the presentation done with the kind of good humor which was the hallmark of Julia Child's PBS shows.
The last major feature of this volume is a two-color index that covers both volumes. Please be warned. These books have neither simple cooking nor low calorie dishes. The object of this style of cooking was to make the very best of inexpensive ingredients.
Each page offers more reasons to be impressed by this work. Any true foodie should be ashamed if they do not own and read these volumes.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I: 50th Anniversary
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I: 50th Anniversary
by Julia Child
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.22
33 used & new from CDN$ 28.22

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Important Cookbook of the Last 50 Years. Period., April 6 2004
Rarely are we able to say with certainty that a book is at the top of its subject in regard and quality. This book, 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck is certainly in that most unique position among cookbooks written in English and published in the United States.
With Julia Child's celebrity arising from her long series of TV cooking shows on PBS, it may be easy to forget how Ms. Child rose to a position with the authority that gave her the cachet to do these shows in the first place. This book is the foundation of that cachet and the basis of Ms. Child's influence with an entire generation of amateur and professional chefs.
It may also be easy to forget that this book has three authors and not just one. The three began as instructors in a school of French cooking, 'Les Ecole des Trois Gourmandes' operating in Paris in the 1950's. And, it was from their experience with this school that led them to write this book. To be fair, Julia Child originated a majority of the culinary content and contributed almost all of the grunt work with her editors and publisher to get the book published.
The influence of this book cannot be underestimated. It has been written that the style of recipe writing even influenced James Beard, the leading American culinary authority at the time, to change his style of writing in a major cookbook on which he was working when '...French Cooking' was published. Many major American celebrity experts in culinary matters have cited Child and this book as a major influence. Not the least of these is Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. It is interesting that these first to come to mind are not professional chefs, but caterers and teachers of the household cook. Child was not necessarily teaching 'haute cuisine', she was teaching what has been named 'la cuisine Bourgeoise' or the cooking of the housewife and, to some extent, the cooking of the bistro and brasserie, not the one or two or three star restaurant.
The table of contents follows a very familiar and very comfortable outline, with major chapters covering Soups, Sauces, Eggs, Entrees and Luncheon Dishes, Fish, Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, Cold Buffet, and Deserts and Cakes. The table of contents does not itemize every recipe, but it does break topics down so that one can come very close to a type of preparation you wish from the table of contents. One of the very attractive schemas used to organize recipes in this book is to take a general topic such as Roast Chicken and give not one, but many different variations on this basic method. Under Roast Chicken, for example, you see Spit-roasted Chicken, Roast Chicken Basted with Cream, Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Roast Squab Chickens with Chicken Liver Canapes, Casserole-roasted Chicken with Tarragon and Casserole-roasted Chicken with Bacon. Thus, the book is not only a tutorial of techniques, it is also a work of taxonomy, giving one a picture of the whole range of variations possible to a basic technique.
The book goes far beyond being a simple collection of recipes in many other ways without straying from the culinary material. Unlike books combining regional recipes with anecdotal memoirs, this book is all business. Heading the recipes is a wealth of general knowledge on cooking variables such as weights versus cooking time and conditions. Headnotes also include general techniques on, for example, how to truss a chicken (with drawings) and many deep observations on professional technique. The notes on roasting chicken instructing one to attend to all the senses in watching and listening to the cooking meat in order to obtain the very best results. This may have easily come from the pen of Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali.
The individual recipe writing is detailed in the extreme, and recipes typically run to two to three times as long as you may see in 'The Joy of Cooking' or 'James Beard's American Cookery'. The recipes are also very 'modular'. A single recipe may actually require the cooking of two or three component preparations. This is not an invention of Julia Child. I believe she has captured here an essential characteristic of French culinary tradition. The most common of these advance preparations is a stock. More complicated examples are to make a potato salad, a dish in itself, as a component to a Salade Nicoise. What Child may have originated, at least to the world of American cookbook writing, is the notion of a Master Recipe, where many different dishes are presented as variations on a basic preparation. This notion has been used and misused for decades.
This book has become so important in its field that it seems almost irreverent to question the quality of the recipes. I can only say that I have prepared several dishes from these pages, and have always produced a tasty dish and learned something new with each experience. While there are other excellent introductions to French Cooking such as Madeline Kamman's 'The New Making of a Chef', one simply cannot go wrong by using this book as ones entree into cooking in general and French cooking in particular.
The more I read other cooking authorities' writing, the more I respect the work of Julia Child and company. Observations on technique that went right over my head two years ago are now revealed as signs of a deep insight into cooking technique.
As large as the book is, the material presented to Knopf in 1961 was actually much larger and the second volume of the book is largely material created for the original writing. To get a reasonably complete picture of French Cookery, do get both volumes at the same time.
A true classic with both simple and advanced techniques. A superb introduction for someone who is just beginning an interest in food.

A Passion for My Provence: Home Cooking from the South of France
A Passion for My Provence: Home Cooking from the South of France
by Lydie Marshall
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Excellent Culinary Evocation of Provence, April 5 2004
On the shelves of most libraries and bookstores today, Italian themed cookbooks outnumber French themed cookbooks by about three (3) to one (1), as they do on my bookshelf. Of these Italian cookbooks, over half deal explicitly with a regional Italian cuisine, with Tuscany, Rome, and Emilia-Romagna leading the pack. Yet, the most common culinary region as book subject is Provence, in Southern France along the Rhone river. To many minds this is foodie central for the Mediterranean cuisine, being a location with a uniquely strong junction of olive, grape, and vegetable culture with the seafood of the Mediterranean. Not only are many books written specifically about Provence, but it is the spiritual center of inspiration for practically every major culinary writer in English, most prominently Julia Child, Richard Olney and James Beard, all of whom either maintained homes in Provence or visited the area on a regular basis.
Not only does Provence lead in pure numbers, I think it also leads in the quality of the writing and in the diversity of the cuisine. As evidence, I submit a book I reviewed earlier, 'Patricia Wells At Home in Provence' and my current subject 'A Passion for My Provence' by Lydie Marshall. The two books have very similar chapter headings and both deal with tarts, daubes, vegetable stews, and fish stews aplenty. Aioli and tapenade flows over their pages like water. Still, it was very surprising to me to find virtually no duplication in recipes in the two books. This is doubly surprising because when I reviewed two books on Roman cuisine, I easily found five different entree (not condiment) recipes occurring in the two books with identical Italian names and similar recipes.
Both authors conduct cooking classes in their homes in Provence. Ms. Marshall lives in an old chateau in Nyons, a small town on a small tributary of the Rhone in central Provence. Ms. Marshall is a native of France. Ms. Wells, a native American, spends most of her time in Paris, but she summers in northern Provence, where she and her husband have had a farmhouse for over twenty years.
All of this makes choosing between these two books very difficult, especially since I believe the sizes of each book is almost perfectly proportional to the list prices and the presence of color photos in the more expensive (Wells) but not in the less expensive. The absence of common recipes in these books can probably be explained by the fact that both books specifically advertise themselves as collections of home recipes. As the two homes are separated by quite a distance in a very provincial land, it is no surprise that the two writers have little but a general style of cooking in common.
Certain ingredients share the starring roles in both books. It would not be Provencal cooking without eggplant, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, cepes (porcini), monkfish, and chicken. Ms. Marshall has a great section on fowl of various types, but all recipes can be made with chicken if pheasant or guinea hen is not available. Ms. Marshall also surprises us by covering ingredients such as pumpkin that Ms. Wells does not even mention. Ms. Marshall also devotes a considerable amount of space to pissaladiere, 'the Provencal version of pizza' which has its origins in Nice. The classic topping for pissaladiere is an anchovy and onion marmalade. The crust is quite thick, more like a Sicilian than a Neapolitan thin crust pizza. Ms. Marshall in fact makes her pissaladiere with potato dough. She devotes over twenty pages to pissaladiere and other recipes one can base on this dough. In contrast, Ms. Wells has recipes for pizza and fougasse (French foccacia), but nothing on pissaladiere.
On average, I find Ms. Marshall's instructions less detailed than Ms. Wells, but I find no resulting deficiency in the quality of her dishes. Ms. Wells, being a professional journalist who hobnobs with the likes of Joel Robuchon will certainly have more to say about ingredients and technique. But, Ms. Marshall even has her own Robuchon story in describing the great chef's solution to doing a salt baked fish where the salt coat comes off without excessive salt in the fish itself. Ms. Wells includes wines to match each dish and Ms. Marshall does not.
As both books are in paperback with a total list price below $40, I would buy both, especially if you are fond of French cooking. If your budget is tight, get the work by Ms. Marshall and wait for Ms. Wells soon to be published new book on Provencal cooking.
Highly recommended, especially for those on a budget.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20