Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My one-track mind

some tasty almond cookies from Fancy Desserts
Oh boy, the Piglet has started and right out of the gate: No! Ryan Sutton chose Sean Brock’s Heritage over Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune and obviously I view that as a major upset and mistake.  I’m not going to repeat all my reasons for preferring Prune, will just say that Sutton’s “(expletive omitted) cookbook review” (sic) didn’t change my mind.  

I enjoy seeing how other people experience and judge cookbooks, no matter how vehemently I disagree with their conclusions. 

I so badly wanted to blog more about the Piglet cookbooks before the tournament started, but I was getting carried away. I was walking around thinking about cookbooks all the time. Pondering what recipe I was going to test next, seeking out water kefir grains, figuring out what was wrong with Brooks Headley’s whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies (lots), wondering where I could buy chestnut flour so I could bake from Alice Medrich’s admirable Flavor Flours, trying to articulate why all the beautiful pictures of beautiful Mimi Thorisson in her beautiful Kitchen in France irritated me. I was extremely happy and thoroughly engaged. This was a problem. For about a week there, the blog became an all-consuming, unpaid full-time job and I was only growing more preoccupied with each passing day. Other projects languished. I finally had to lay myself off. 
Gentlemen, I think this is a cookbook for you.
 What I’m saying is that sometimes when I don’t post on the blog it’s not because I care too little, but because I start caring too much.

I checked both out of the library and won't buy either, but prefer A Kitchen in France.


`

56 comments:

  1. The phrase "I don't know how she does it!" comes to mind whenever I look at her blog, Manger. The recipes seem solid but it's not a book I feel I need.

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    1. The cover of Thorisson's cookbook turned me off right away--why on earth would she slice food on a table that looks just a little higher than her knee? All I can think is how uncomfortable it must be to be hunched over like that. That alone makes it too irritating for me to want to pick it up.

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    2. Very irritating, the photos in Thorisson's book. Adam Roberts did a great job with it in today's Piglet.

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  2. I agreed with the conclusion, but I would expect most people would prefer Prune. I live in the South, I can get the ingredients, I don't have kids to feed, and I have plenty of time. For me, the food in Heritage is closer to how I like to eat than the food in Prune. That said, I still like Prune quite well, and it's sad that these two books had to go up against each other in the very first round. I was also very disappointed in Mr. Sutton's review - I really want to see more cooking from the judges, and it appears he did very little. Or if he did, he wasn't telling.

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    Replies
    1. I was surprised Prune fell so hard, so fast. I wish Sutton had grappled with the difficulty and expense of the recipes in Heritage. Not saying difficulty and expense should disqualify a book, but he didn't even mention the significant hurdles to engaging with this one.

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  3. I thought Sutton's review was absolutely horrible. I appreciate what others said in the Piglet's comments stream about the two books having a broader scope than "just" cooking, but really! Food52 is a cooking site! And I have the distinct impression from Sutton that he had no intention of ever really doing any actual cooking, and that really frustrates me. He was a poor choice of judge, to say the least. Your reviews are far more interesting, relevant, entertaining, informative, human, and real. Thanks for all you do!

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    Replies
    1. No, it wasn't a great review. Today's was!

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  4. Yes, I have to agree this was a disappointing start to a much anticipated Piglet! I remember the year Alice Waters delivered the final judgement, and it was obvious that she hadn't cooked anything from either book. Oh my gosh did she get nailed for that in the comments.


    You can buy chestnut flour at Whole Foods. At least the ones here in NYC have it. If there's an Italian specialty store in your area, they'll probably carry it too.

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    Replies
    1. Hi witloof! I appreciate seeing you both here and at the Piglet. (I have the handle "lunarwoozle" on the Food52 site -- a ridiculous name I know, but one seized upon in a moment of desperation to find something unique; it holds no further meaning than that!) I too remember that Alice Waters final judgment.... you'd think the Piglet folks would have figured out by now that their community finds it exceedingly frustrating to read reviews that don't include actual cooking!

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    2. I remember that Alice Waters review -- such a dud. And she basically couldn't stand either of the books, was very put out that they didn't include more fresh produce.

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    3. OK, now you know I truly am a food crank: I have to agree with Saint Alice. We should all be eating much more fruit and veg. After four months on this horrible diet, which is making me feel fantastic, I went to a dance festival last weekend and contra danced nonstop from 11 in the morning until 12:45 the next morning for three days in a row. With no pain whatsoever! And I was never tired and never sat out a single dance! And I'm 57!

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    4. I agree about fruits and vegetables! Her tone was just judgy and wrong in the context of reviewing -- what was it? -- Milk Bar and Joe Beef?
      That is a LOT of dancing. It sound exhausting and really, really fun.

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    5. Those were two awful cookbooks, I have to say, so I'm not surprised she didn't want to cook out of them and sounded so disgusted by the outcome of the previous judging! Have you been to Milk Bar? I. Don't. Get. It. The stuff there is just completely inedible. I think Christina Tosi inspired the article Kim Severson wrote in the NYT about chefs and stoner food {cereal infused milk in the ice cream}. I certainly could never eat any of it in a sober state. Blech!
      I was so annoyed at encountering an article about stoner cuisine in the paper of record that I sent a note to Nick Fox, the executive editor of the Dining section {who IMO has run the thing into the ground, it used to be so entertaining and now I barely glance at it} and he defended it by saying it wasn't meant to be "titlatting". I guess that tells you everything you need to know about the editors there.

      Contra dancing is a lot of fun... I'm going to email you a YouTube clip of the festival. There's a dance in San Rafael if you want to try it.

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  5. Adam Roberts' judgement is up, and it is wonderful!

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    1. Yes! And you were the first to comment. I actually scrolled down to the bottom before reading his review and was outraged because I had some big problems with the recipes in Fancy Desserts. But then I read the review and it was so persuasive I decided to rethink. Really, an exemplary review.

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    2. I hope you had a good look at the comments from the first round yesterday -- your fans were out in full force.

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    3. Oh yes, I saw, and blushed. Thank you!

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  6. I managed to get all of these from the library... And the only one I plan to buy is prune...
    What's the big deal about the index. This book reads like an actual binder in a pro kitchen. Anyone actually cooking in one... Sometimes... Removes the page and doesn't return it to the exact same spot. So you see, an index would be totally useless. There are rotation menu's there are seasonal menu's.. Thank goodness for the recipe on the computer... Because recipes are generally stuffed In drawers or binders.. Reading prune made me actually a little nostalgic for the pro kitchen.... Almost
    But after some reflection the only thing I really missed about those days was the full pantry, cooler, and freezer that was well stocked with mostly everything one needed. And hopefully if anything was shortened or missing, well hopefully that was my day off

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    Replies
    1. Library is the way to go. I've finally learned, after all these years.

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    2. Ha! I'm now remembering countless conversations about our bakery's ostensibly alphabetized recipe binder. "Is the white chocolate mint truffle mousse under M for mint, W for white or C for chocolate?" 10 minutes later, "...oh, it's under T for truffle."

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  7. A kitchen in France... Was more a photography book than an actual cookbook. I only cooked one thing from it.. And can't remember what that actually was... the book was a little bit of a let down for me after all the hype. I prob paid a late fine for it, but what else is new. I usually buy a book every couple of weeks for the library based on my fines
    The book Was a good read. I love a cookbook that has more thought to the actual story than just a book of recipes, in that respect it was a winner.

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    Replies
    1. I made the garlic soup from Kitchen in France and it was good!

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  8. I read the bio on her blog and the only thing I could think of was "Stepford Wife". Really, who the heck has 7 kids, 14 dogs and picks carrots while wearing black stilettos? No one living in the real world, that's who.

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    1. I guess you're supposed to envy Mimi Thorisson's life when you look at the pictures, but I don't. It doesn't look fun at all.

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    2. Mimi's Manger blog made my skin crawl. I find her -- and all her surreal posed photos, hanging among hay bales or walking among old twigs in her little dresses and fancy boots -- really difficult to stomach, but her food looks good, and I appreciate that it's so classically French.

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    3. The food does look good!

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  9. I am lost as to what this post is referring too. HELP!

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  10. I am lost as to what this post is referring too. HELP!

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  11. I think Mimi is supposed to be a newer younger Nigella Lawson after all that show was all about food porn, and her first husband was the creator of her style maybe so is Mimi.

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  12. I am extremely impressed along with your writing abilities, Thanks for this great share.

    ReplyDelete
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