Thursday, September 07, 2006

The “Heat” of the Moment

I’m still under the weather, so I polished off “Heat,” by Bill Buford, in the past day or so.

The first part of the book was about Buford’s experience as a "slave" in Mario Batali’s kitchen. He paints a vivid portrait of Chef Batali in all his debauched glory. That part of the book is a riot (and confirmed to me, once again, that I have no desire to cook in a restaurant).

Then Buford decides he needs to go to Italy to study the real Italian way of cooking – and the tone turns ultra serious. First he details his efforts at learning the mysteries of pasta. As an example, he doggedly digs through ancient cookbooks to discover the year Italians started using egg in their pasta instead of water (I never got interested enough to care).

Then it’s on to butchering, where he describes in great detail the various cuts of meats he learned about at an Italian butcher shop. He cuts along the bone, using the knife as an extension of his hand, and extracts a beautiful cut of meat called the whatchamajigger, and he looked in lots of books to figure out what the whatchamajigger is called in America and, wonder of wonders, the cuts and terms in each country are different! You get the idea. Now, my grandfather and great-grandfather were butchers. Surely Buford could interest me in a topic that is an integral part of my family history. Nope. I actually started skipping pages.

When I reserve books at the library, it never fails that two come at once. Sure enough, when I picked up “Heat,” there was “My Life in Paris” by Julia Child.

After I’m done with that, I hope I’m finally well enough to get my nose out of books and into the kitchen.

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