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Thursday, Jul 18, 2013
Mini-choppers are not for Tuesday night cooking: there’s the cleanup factor. But life is short, and one must fly in the face of convention, even in the smallest ways.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is a book of vegetarian recipes culled from his weekly column in London’s The Guardian newspaper. Ottolenghi, an Israeli Jew, works in partnership with Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian, in two London restaurants and three takeaway delicatessens.


The pair have collaborated on a second cookbook, Jerusalem, that shares not only the food of their physically proximate, culturally diverse childhoods, but the ways food, culture, politics, and religion intersect and clash in this most tumultuous of cities. Jerusalem is both a love song to a beloved city and the most political cookbook I have ever encountered.


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Thursday, Jun 20, 2013
There are cookbooks, and then there are cookbooks whose every recipe calls out to you. Fuschia Dunlop's 'Every Grain of Rice' compels your full kitchen attention.

“I was once given an amazing lunch by a young woman whose mother had been unable to boil water but was quite able to employ expensive Chinese help. Everyone should have the good fortune either to be Chinese or to be rich.”
—Laurie Colwin, “Starting Out In the Kitchen”


For those of us who lack both Chinese blood and wealth, we should at least have the good fortune to find Fuschia Dunlop’s latest cookbook, Every Grain of Rice. I’d read Dunlop’s articles in various cooking magazines, but never her books until I found Every Grain of Rice on a recent cruise through my library’s cookbook section.


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Monday, Jun 10, 2013
Tenaya Darlington is out to demystify cheese for the timid, but it can be hard to see what a bubble outfit, rickety wheelchair, and oversized sunglasses have to do with an artisanal Northern California cheese.

In Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, Tenaya Darlington, writer of Madame Fromage Cheese Blog and the Di Bruno Bros. official cheese blogger (Di Bruno Bros. is a Philadelphia market of long standing), is out to demystify cheese for the timid. Cheese being a magnificent food, Darlington’s efforts to permanently end the era of pasteurized processed cheese food is a good and noble thing. That she accomplishes this nimbly, with good humor, is all to the better.


Writing about cheese is like writing about wine: the writer is attempting to convey information about a nuanced, complex comestible. Darlington is writing for an audience who knows little about cheese beyond the occasional foray into rubbery baked brie, leaving her with the same adjectives used for wine: barnyardy, mushroomy, flowery, lemony, fruity, nutty. These adjectives trudge wearily between cheese and wine writing, wearing a path in the terroir. Darlington, a writing professor at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s College, is well aware of this. She wants to lure you into tasting that scary, moldy round thing with the French name. She wants you to fork over extra money for the good stuff. She even wants you to eat the rind. To that end, she employs, if not quite the language of seduction, then certainly the language of the personal ad, ascribing human personalities and their attendant idiosyncrasies to cheeses. Mistress of the creative metaphor, her “cheese personalities” induce giggling. Where else have you seen a cheese compared to Pink Floyd? Or been instructed to tell your friends a new taste is the Lady Gaga of cheese?


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Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013
When 22 food luminaries assembled to decide on 101 classic cookbooks, one can only imagine what kinds of fights, food or otherwise, transpired. Remember, these are people with very sharp knives.

The Food Studies Collection at New York University’s Fales Library began at Marion Nestle’s behest. In 2003, Nestle approached Marvin Taylor, director of the Fales Library and Special Collections, suggesting he build a cookbook collection supporting NYU’s new program in food studies. Taylor, an avid cook, agreed to the idea.


The two visited Cecily Brownstone, longtime Associated Press food reporter. In 2003 the aged Brownstone lived in a four-story townhouse filled with cookbooks. She agreed to sell her 7,000 book collection to the library.  Thanks to a donation from chef Rozane Gold, The Fales also acquired Gourmet Magazine’s library just days before Condé Nast planned to throw it out.  (Note to S.I. Newhouse, again. Bring back Gourmet!!). 


The Ladies’ Home Journal donated their cookbook collection, as did the James Beard Foundation. Numerous private citizens with amazing collections followed suit. The result is a much-used, comprehensive collection of cookbooks, pamphlets, and writings about food. And 101 Classic Cookbooks.


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Tuesday, Mar 5, 2013
April Bloomfield is a direct and unpretentious chef whose love of food and cooking is contaigous. If the recipes don’t grab you, Bloomfield’s cooking philosophy will.

“I have tried a few recipes for pig’s ears and feet… But I will not make them again.  They are difficult to buy, especially ears; most butchers don’t sell them… these days people eat them at restaurants and rarely cook them at home.”
—Claudia Roden The Food of Spain


I read April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Pig in one rapid sitting, charmed by Bloomfield’s voice. Then I sat down to write about it and grew increasingly flummoxed. I realized I’d likely never cook from it, yet still considered it a good book. The question is, what kind of book is this?


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