Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Heat," Etc.

I just finished Bill Buford's excellent "Heat," but unlike most food books it didn't make me hungry. In fact, it made me a little sad to learn how hard it is and how long it takes to learn just a fraction of all there is to know about one type of cooking and, in particular, one region's cuisine. As Buford (like many New Yorker writers, apparently independently wealthy and with tons of time on his hands) hops around between New York City and Italy, learning the ins and outs of the kitchen (via Mario Batali) and interning at various Old Country butchers, pasta shops and whatnot (to a series of seriously nuts Masters), we learn about not just the death of tradition but the way the holders of those sacred traditions often stubbornly take their secrets with them to the grave. After all, to give up their secrets, to too many, guarantees that the very methods that make them special will be replicated and automated to the point of irrelevance. Heck, to this day no one knows who first added egg to make pasta noodles!

Great book, though, colorful and casually thought provoking, even though it proceeds with little to no firm agenda other than intellectual curiosity.


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