Friday, July 25, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: July 2014

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
Author: Bill Buford
via NPR
As explained in June's Coffeehouse post, our family is doing a book swap this summer.  Bill Buford's Heat was My Wife's choice for me.  My Wife is a Foodie, First Class - a genius cook with insatiable curiosity about her medium.  The vast majority of what I claim to know about food or drink is thanks to spending the past 15+ years of my life with her.  As a voracious reader, she also has numerous excellent books on the subject.

Heat's subtitle provides a thorough synopsis on its own.  Bill Buford was a writer and editor for The New Yorker when he first embarked on his personal cooking odyssey.  He begins by embedding himself in Mario Batali's kitchen at Babbo in New York, revealing the same pirate ship atmosphere Anthony Bourdain exposed in Kitchen Confidential.  Curiosity eventually leads him to Italy to learn the old ways.

Buford covers a lot of bases on his journey from novice to master.  He paints vivid portraits of all the colorful figures he meets in the culinary world.  Ingredients and techniques are explored intimately.  Food is the window to history, culture, the quirks of the mind and the passions of the soul.  He reminds us that at its finest, great food is deeply sexy.

Heat is the sort of book that makes me want to learn more - always a strong sell.  Occasionally, I feel Buford gets so bogged down in the details that the thread of the overall narrative is neglected for too long.  But his enthusiasm for sharing his newly acquired wisdom is infectious.  My own food knowledge lags far beyond that of my beloved.  I expect that for her, part of the appeal of an adventure like Buford's is a thirst for comparable experiences of her own.  I'm not ready to offer myself up as a kitchen slave at our local bistro but I can certainly appreciate the longing.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post August's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is August 29th.

42 comments:

  1. Oh! This one sounds, gulp, delish! When I'm not watching Nick Jr these days, I'm watching Food Network. I love behind-the-scenes books. Does he actually talk about being in Batali's kitchen? Or, is it really just a segue into why he went to Tuscany?

    Totally unrelated, but, I lived a stone's throw away from two highly rated Italin restaurants in Chicago's Little Italy. I loved waking up to the smell of roasting garlic.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Veronica

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    1. Much of the book, though not all, is devoted to his time in Batali's kitchen. If that had been all there was to it, I might not have enjoyed it so much as it would have been too much like Kitchen Confidential.

      My wife lived in Chicago for many years - such an amazing food city. I like your story of waking up to garlic smell.

      When I was in grad school, we lived in New Brunswick, NJ, a lame town for the most part except for the fact that it has outstanding restaurants - most out of our price range, sadly. However, there was a soul food restaurant right across the parking lot from our building so you'd start your day with the smell of barbecue sauce - not half-bad at all!

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  2. Sounds like a book that would make me eat a lot!

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    1. Ah, but it will also make you want to savor the food you eat!

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  3. Sounds like another book I need to get for my sister, the chef! Thanks!

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  4. Sounds like the sort of book my mom would love. I shall keep an eye out for it to tuck it away for Christmas.

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    1. Excellent! Glad to have inspired the thought.

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  5. Sounds like an interesting read. My sister, the amateur home cook, would likely love it. I'm happily ignorant about all things cooking related.

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    1. I don't think my wife would have had much use for me if I hadn't at least shown an interest in food. Our first bonding moment was over a plate of steak tartare.

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  6. My mom would like this book, but me...I'm like MJ, happily ignorant. I'll leave the cooking to my mom and sisters.

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    1. My wife is quite capable of handling all of our cooking but I've been encouraged to find my own food hobby - grilling, brewing beer, etc. I think I've finally found one to spark my passion: breakfasts!

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  7. This linking thing sounds very interesting to me. I am hesitant that I would be able to read and write the appropriate review. I suppose you might say I lack a bit of confidence there, though my blog today features not just one, but three books I have read over the past couple of weeks. I think I've just talked myself into the possibility of signing up. You can let me know if I need to be dropped from the list.

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    1. Dropped from the list? Nellie, I am not the blog police. This is all about sharing our love of books. Done and done.

      I do start a new link list for each month rather than rolling over so if you'd like to join us again, I'll post August's sign up list tomorrow. I hope you will!

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  8. "He reminds us that at its finest, great food is deeply sexy." **fans self**

    Sounds like a great read! I am in love with my kitchen, too, so should give this a read.

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    1. There's no denying it, food's hot! Yeah, there's that whole way-to-a-man's-heart-is-through-his-stomach thing but the sensuous experience en route is more powerful than mere sustenance.

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  9. I'm not excited about being a kitchen slave either, but maybe a kitchen serf?

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    1. In all seriousness, I was amazed to learn how little a line cook in a top New York restaurant makes, especially considering the hours and the level of expertise required. I thought teachers had it rough!

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  10. This sounds like my kind of book! I love food and I love to cook!

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    1. Kitchen Confidential is excellent, too, if you haven't already read it - grittier, the insider's perspective rather than the outsider's.

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  11. I have to admit at first glance I thought from the title that it was a novelization of the 1995 film. ;-)
    I watch alot of the food network with my wife, but it hasn't helped my cooking much.

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    1. Hasn't helped my cooking much either, though it does make me a more enthusiastic eater!

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  12. That's a great review. The book sounds so interesting. Thanks for writing about the book, and thank you for hosting.

    Love,
    Janie

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  13. This sounds like a terrific book. Ditto "Kitchen Confidential." I've been amassing recipes, cookbooks, and books about cooking for more than fifty years, but hey! there's always room for a couple more, right? (Might have to use a shoehorn to get them into the house, though.)

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  14. I've seen Ratatouille. That's pretty close, right?

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    1. Food movies - that would be a fun exploration sometime.

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  15. Interesting book. I'm a food freak so this would be one I should check out. I like your book exchange idea too. We do that for my son's school but never for adults.
    Thanks for hosting!

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    1. The book swap has been great fun - I'm hoping it'll be our new summer tradition.

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  16. As the cooker in the family (and as someone who grew up with a cook for a mother), it sounds interesting but not interesting enough to make me want to read it. I have a tendency to avoid cooking shows and cooking books and all of that stuff. I probably spent too much time in the kitchen as a kid.

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    1. Understandable. For my wife, it's art. I feel I know her better when I learn more about it.

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  17. I've never been excited about food. However, I certainly appreciate a cook who has the skill and knowledge to turn a beef stew into an unforgettable experience. I grew up on a farm where the meals had to be plentiful, simple and nourishing. Therefore I never was introduced to spices any more exotic than salt and pepper. However, my mother's meals were delicious; her main ingredients were fresh home grown food and love. I've never developed a taste for fast food outlets. So when hubby and I go out for dinner, we pick ones who have a reputation for simple and good - sometime hard to find. Thanks for your post.

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  18. Glad you enjoyed this one! I think it is fun that you and your family did a book swap. :) I don't cook very much- but this is one my fiance might like. He loves to cook! Thanks for sharing.
    ~Jess

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    1. I don't cook much either but I do enjoy learning more about food.

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  19. What fun that both you and Susan reviewed cookbooks.
    Both sound quite interesting. I enjoy finding out the history of dishes.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Buford actually gets quite obsessive over some of the history.

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  20. It sounds a good book to read without being pretentious. One to look out for.

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    1. Definitely not pretentious! Humility reigns throughout.

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  21. I always wish I loved cooking and had an obsession with it. That would be awesome. ;) But as it is, I find it pretty tedious. Though I truly love to eat, so if I want to eat healthily, and within a budget, I guess I have to cook.

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    1. Cooking tedious? You've obviously never seen a master at work!

      In truth, there is a lot of waiting. My wife always brings a good book to the kitchen.

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