Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen

FeasNEW RELEASE!

The compulsively readable memoir of a woman at war—with herself, with her body, and with food—while working her way through the underbelly of New York City’s glamorous culinary scene.

The brief review below from a Goodreads reader pretty much sums it up for me:

“Yikes. This was excruciating. Short little (maybe?) sentences, and weird run on sentences filled this kindle first read. This is unfortunately a memoir about a sad little rich girl with an eating disorder. She continuously explains the obvious, but on the flipside, throws a million new people into or out of the story with no explanation. It reads like talking to a condescending teenager. Maybe that’s acceptable because it is a memoir?”

My first impressions: This is like a “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret”. On steroids! She whines; she cries. It’s a rumbling of thoughts as if this came from her diary. It’s a glass half-empty mentality; witnessing self-destruction, doubting to keep reading if she keeps up with the skinny factor. She is all all over the place in this book. A painful, painful read thus far.

As I got over the past 2/3 of the book, here I began to appreciate this memoir dealing with her eating disorder, running a restaurant, and letting go. Unfortunately her last section Cake read like a diatrab.

I like reading about restaurants and food and the industry, but that is not this. And all I can say is I’m glad I read Kitchen Confidential!

~ date read 03.24.2018 ~ 2 stars ~  

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Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine

UPCOMING RELEASE: 4.17.2018

Chef Edward Lee Is Writing a Book on the Melting Pot of American Cuisine
Southern chef and Mind of a Chef star Edward Lee has a second book in the works, and it’s not a cookbook: Titled Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting Pot Cuisine, it will feature 16 chapters on “the rapidly evolving story of American cuisine,” plus original recipes to accompany them. It hits shelves on April 17. [Eater 11.27.17]

ButtermilkGraffiti

Quite an interesting gourmand travelogue! What a journey Chef Edward Lee took me on. It’s gritty, candid, visceral in its dialogue. He shares his two-year experiences traveling across the country to places that are off-the-beaten-path locales; places where you wouldn’t expect to come across certain nationalities of foods.

In this eclectic mix of culinary travel essays, Chef Lee raises thought-provoking questions about authenticity and tradition as he explores how immigrant food cultures impact American cuisine. As he speaks to the local cooks and chefs, he shares their perspectives of and the barriers that exist among themselves in their locale.

“Food is trust, and trust is intimacy. The hardest part of trying something unfamiliar is not the fear of the unknown but, rather, the mistrust of the person cooking the food. When we read about a celebrity chef in a glossy magazine, we feel we’re getting to know that chef as a person. It makes us comfortable enough to eat whatever the chef puts in front of us.”

Now I’m not sure why I was taken aback to learn there are numerous Korean restaurants and grocery stores in Montgomery, Alabama. Learning that Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai opened their first plant in the U.S., I appreciated this immigrant migration to Montgomery. However, he sheds a perspective which could be any place immigrants migrate to a town/city:

“In a town like Montgomery, with such deep-rooted traditions, the recent wave of Korean immigrants naturally brings with it skepticism and mistrust, from both sides.”

Growing up, Filipino cuisine was enclosed among family, among the nearby Filipino community. You would only find traditional Filipino food cooked at home; it was ethnic home cooking. The traditional meals I grew up on reflected generations sustaining those personal ties and creating a “home away from home” connection. As an Asian American (born in Chicago, Filipino nationality), I can appreciate this.

“Our food traditions are the last things we hold onto. They are not just recipes; they are a connection to the nameless ancestors who gave us our DNA. That’s why our traditional foods are so important. The stories, the memories, the movements that have been performed for generations -without them, we lose our direction.”

Chef Lee’s journey is a testament on how cuisine from other lands have been adopted, providing a voice on how culinary history has influenced and shaped today’s American cuisine. His is a unique food lit book including original recipes, inspired by his travels! And for that, I am appreciative!

~ date read 03.17.2018 ~ 4 stars ~

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Note: I would strongly recommend re-reading the Introduction. It brings about a different perspective on his dialogue you would not have felt on the first attempt.

And Then it’s Spring ~ A whole new season of fresh reads!

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Spring is a time of new beginnings and clean slates, when the final traces of winter snow melt away and the trees burst out with fresh green buds. Even when melancholy descends and a chilly breeze blows, spring never truly loses its sense of possibility, and neither do books.

And what better to read, during this season of renewal, than a book, or two? Especially in the park on a sunny spring day!

Here are a few of my food writing upcoming notable reads:

  • Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting Pot Cuisine
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
  • The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
  • How to Taste: The Curious Cook’s Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond – with Recipes

So grab your favorite quilt and join me!

Give a Girl a Knife: a Memoir

GiveAGirlAKnifeBefore setting to write the review, I perused some of the book review posts online. Many made mention they had not known author Amy Thielen had her own HGTV show Heartland Table.  I had watched some episodes back in 2013 & 2014 which centered on living in rural northern Minnesota, shot at her home (akin to a cabin in the woods).

Give a Girl a Knife begins with her time working in the kitchens of New York chefs David Boulay, Daniel Bouland, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (this I was not aware). Her perspective working in their kitchens as a line cook was one of comaraderie, yet at times offensive bordering on harassment, in a challenging, hectic-driven industry.

She shares stories of how her Midwestern upbringing brought out her appreciation for cooking. She shares culinary stories about her grandmother Dion and her mother, and her family’s foodstuffs summed up in three ingredients: butter, fermented pickles, and bacon.

“It was hard for me to admit, but moving away from my hometown two years short of my high school graduation had somehow messed with the flow of my natural exodus. The city, where I’d found the culture, the books, and the people I’d been looking for, wasn’t enough. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d left something behind there that I needed to retrieve.”

Her memoir is a coming-of-age as she deals with her parent’s divorce, uprooting her in the midst of high school leaving behind her hometown, her place called home. Following her journey she’s so far led – her relationship with her childhood friend’s older brother, his path as an artist with her path as a chef, and the one-room shack they have which they have since expanded upon (not only in structure, but the addition of running water and electricity) along which includes their family with the birth of their son – she finds her way back to what she now calls home.

A recommended read that encompasses her rural Minnesota milieu, her stint learning to hone her chef skills in New York City, and her fueled passion for Midwestern cooking, her roots feeding off her homestead. Here she does not include recipes; however, she previously published a cookbook.

To learn more about the author and her James Beard winning cookbook, The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, visit her blog at Amy Thielen: Home.

~ date read 03.11.2018 ~ 4 stars ~

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Tokyo New Wave: 31 Chefs Defining Japan’s Next Generation, with Recipes

TokyoNewWave

UPCOMING RELEASE: 3.13.2018

The one and only time I stepped foot in Tokyo was when I was seven years old at the Haneda Airport arriving via Northwest Orient Airlines on a cold day in December – a stopover on our way to The Philippines – standing in the middle of the terminal looking out of the windows. So this is Tokyo.

When I became aware of the upcoming release for Tokyo New Wave I just had to ask for an advanced copy! The premise of the book on Japanese cuisine and a chef’s view of their food, their style, their inspiration was one I was looking forward to. This cookbook, travelogue did not disappoint.

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Andrea Fazzari shares the changing trend Toyko chefs are embracing in terms of their style immersed in their restaurant and menu.

I was impressed by the introductions of each chef and the cute Q&A. We are not only learning so much more about the cuisine, but their drive and determination, and the influences of Japanese culture. As much as each chef provided their take on what it means to be Japanese from their responses: being reserved; respecting the seasons; a serene respect for others rather than themselves, they also shared their experiences of learning their craft by their travels and their reverence of other cultures that in and of itself has influenced their cuisine.

“Five hundred years ago, there was no frying in Japan, until it came via Portugal. If we didn’t learn how to fry from the Portuguese, we wouldn’t have tempura.”

It was pretty amazing to read how each chef aspired to their trademark, who and what inspired them, and the circumstances that has led them to where they are today. Through their tales of learning from the best or being in the environment of self-learning one can’t deny that, although talent plays an important part for one to be a successful chef, it is by happenstance, luck, internal drive.

As each chef shared their narratives and insights, I appreciated their use of local sourcing – artisans, farmers, purveyors – and the thoughtfulness in how they present their dishes – use of ceramics, wood.

Stunning photography with insightful interviews capture the essence of Japanese cuisine from each chef whose love of their craft transcends throughout the pages. Truly what the author intended in this book resonates in her photography and interviews.

I felt transported…as if I left the airport and touched soil. So this is Tokyo.

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Following are a few responses that stood out for me from the interviews:
What is your earliest food memory?  Crab cream croquettes that my mother made. The were very soft, I loved them. After I started cooking, I asked my mom for the recipe., but she lost it and can’t cook them anymore!
What is tough about your industry?  Working in the restaurant industry is very hard work, with long working hours. Chefs’ lives are shortened once they become head chef. It’s a stressful life physically and mentally. We are like athletes. But I would like to change this. I’d like staff to stay longer and stick with things longer; they are impatient. We need to change the dynamic in society, where cooks get low pay for long hours.
If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be?  My parents. How many more times will I be able to have a meal with my parents? I want to treasure my time with them.
What is one of your favorite films?  Godzilla. Godzilla is a symbol of earthquakes and other natural disasters. Japanese people always have the idea the will lose everything someday because of natural disasters … it’s always in the back of our minds.  We deal with difficulty. And we find solutions. It’s a complex system.
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And I couldn’t help but share my responses, just because:
What is your earliest food memory?  Fried chicken wings. I remember seeing a bucket of fried chicken. My favorite pieces were the wings and I always ate the skin first, dunked in ketchup. Yum!
What inspires you?  My daughters
What is your favorite word?  Fortunate

The book is a luxe collection filled with portraits, interviews, and recipes, exploring the changing landscape of food in Tokyo, Japan. A young and charismatic generation is redefining what it means to be a chef in this celebrated food city. Open to the world and its influences, these chefs have traveled more than their predecessors, have lived abroad, speak other languages, and embrace social media. Yet they still remain distinctly Japanese, influenced by a style, tradition, and terroir to which they are inextricably linked. This combination of the old and the new is on display in Tokyo New Wave, a transporting cookbook and armchair travel guide that captures this moment in Japanese cuisine and brings it to a savvy global audience.
Abut the Author:  Based in Tokyo, ANDREA FAZZARI is a photographer and writer who specializes in portraiture, travel, and the culinary world. Fazzari was chosen as one of “30 Photographers to Watch” by Photo District News in 2004. Her editorial and advertising clients include Travel + LeisureDepartures, Saveur, Cathay Pacific Airlines, and Four Seasons Hotels.
~ date read 03.02.2018 ~ 5 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review. 
Note: I couldn’t help but reach back out to the publicist and share my one comment about the book: I had wished they created a cover jacket. It’s all about the presentation ~ however, thank you for the Press Kit!

 

The Reporter’s Kitchen: Essays

TheReportersKitchen

Jane Kramer started cooking when she started writing.

I had hoped that I would start cooking when I started reading food writing.

A nice compilation of articles as a reporter for The New Yorker.  Divided into three sections – profiles; books, essays, and adventures; celebrating – of chef memoirs, culinary history, gourmand travelogue. This collection of her personal favorites is dedicated to her daughter.

There is a deep pleasure in seeing your child sneak up behind you, match you, and stride right past you, the way my daughter has.

I would have enjoyed this book more if she had added the photos that accompanied the articles which are posted on The New Yorker website. (I have added a few of these photos below.)  I did however appreciate her providing recent status updates to some of her articles, one dating back to 2002.

Following are my memorable mentions I thoroughly enjoyed:

The Quest, A cookbook lover in search of the perfect recipe.  Here she shares some of her favorite cookbooks.

 I learned to cook from cookbooks.

With my recent purchase of Kristen Kish Cooking; Recipes and Techniques, I have had the pleasure of being exposed to the food writing genre since 2012 and have collected a few food writing books with recipes, always a bonus!!

AforkofOnesown

A Fork of One’s Own, A history of culinary revolution.

Your kitchen may not be the mirror of your soul, but it can produce a pretty accurate image of where you’ve landed on the timeline of domesticity. Take a tour through it. You’ll find not only the food you eat (and don’t), band the objects with which you preserve, prepare, cook, and service it, but very likely, tucked away n the back of the highest cupboard, the abandoned paraphernalia of your mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen life.

Eat, Memory {Dining Down Memory Lane}, Nostalgia and Paul Freedman’s “Ten Restaurants That Changed America.”

And I wish that Freedman had gone further afield in his travels, told the story of one exemplary Mexican restaurant in, say, Austin or Santa Fe; or of the first great steakhouse in Omaha or Chicago.

Because these pieces were written specifically for publication, I felt these to be articles rather than essays, limited to the content of their column {essays are written to persuade, while articles are meant to inform (although their content can also persuade)}.

DiningDownMemoryLane

These essays began as a food-issue break from my usual New Yorker beat covering people and politics in Europe. They quickly became not only an annual respite from the rest of the year’s bad news but the source of a deepening appreciation of the table, and of the people who grow and cook and share the gifts of their talent and dedication whenever the rest of us sit down together to break bread.

An interesting collection of her insightful interviews, her culinary reporting, and her appreciation of cooking, whichever kitchen she calls home. In addition, she does a book review post for Bee Wilson’s “Consider the Fork” & Paul Freedman’s “Ten Restaurants That Changed America.”

The only thing missing: recipes.

~ date read 02.28.2018 ~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes)

NourishedNourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) is Lia Huber’s debut novel where her talent shines as a writer on travel and food writing. Working at a PR firm that focused on travel, this path eventually led her to food writing where she wrote for Cooking Light, Bon Appétit to name a few. She writes of her move to Costa Rica and her return to Corfu made for interesting reads.

I wanted to enjoy this book, but I was distracted by the health issues, anxieties, and breakdowns in her quest to find healing, meaning, and a place at a table. I had to remind myself this is a memoir (not a food memoir, per se) where she shares her trials and tribulations, and finding faith, Christianity. There was mention of writing a cookbook and a previous book she wanted to publish, which didn’t materialize. There was also mention of pasta making and opening a restaurant.

However, squeezing in numerous experiences of 22 years – including pursuing a masters degree and adoption – in this one book, at times for me was reading overload. That unfortunately took away from staying engaged reading her travel and food experiences, which had been my expectations.

That and the recipes at the end of each chapter. What I truly enjoyed were the recipes!

Once I finished, I found myself thinking I was not really sure if I felt she “felt” nourished or if the intent all along was to introduce NOURISH Evolution. On the website, her introduction reads:

“I’m Lia Huber and I know how easy it is to feel like you’re spinning in a million directions.”

That is how I felt reading this.

~ date read 01.08.2018 ~ 3 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.