Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What's Cooking on Your Reading List?

Cookbooks and Reading...

There are certain times of the year when I have an overwhelming urge to try new recipes, read cookbooks and try new foods. In the winter that translates to comfort food, but in the summer it's all different types of food. Cookbooks are a guide to trying new foods and recipes. But are cookbooks your typical reading? Yes and no. I think sometimes we just forget that cookbooks are books. We blindly open the pages and leaf through the recipes we find, glance at the stories that make up the other pages of the book and get to business. But what fun it is to actually READ it! How many cookbooks have you actually read?! I was able to sample some great cookbooks with some eGalleys thanks to a some generous publishers over the past few months.  Here's some great "cooking book" finds...

Mastering Pasta b Marc Vetri…  Award-winning chef Marc Vetri wanted to write his first book about pasta. Instead, he wrote two other acclaimed cookbooks and continued researching pasta for ten more years. Now, the respected master of Italian cuisine finally shares his vast knowledge of pasta, gnocchi, and risotto in this inspiring, informative primer featuring expert tips and techniques, and more than 100 recipes.

Vetri's personal stories of travel and culinary discovery in Italy appear alongside his easy-to-follow, detailed explanations of how to make and enjoy fresh handmade pasta. Whether you're a home cook or a professional, you'll learn how to make more than thirty different types of pasta dough, from versatile egg yolk dough, to extruded semolina dough, to a variety of flavored pastas—and form them into shapes both familiar and unique. In dishes ranging from classic to innovative, Vetri shares his coveted recipes for stuffed pastas, baked pastas, and pasta sauces. He also shows you how to make light-as-air gnocchi and the perfect dish of risotto. 

Loaded with useful information, including the best way to cook and sauce pasta, suggestions for substituting pasta shapes, and advance preparation and storage notes, Mastering Pasta offers you all of the wisdom of a pro. For cooks who want to take their knowledge to the next level, Vetri delves deep into the science of various types of flour to explain pasta's uniquely satisfying texture and how to craft the very best pasta by hand or with a machine. Mastering Pasta is the definitive work on the subject and the only book you will ever need to serve outstanding pasta dishes in your own kitchen. 

What did I think? Fresh pasta, even the thought of it makes my mouth water. Have you ever had fresh pasta? There's a certain kind of lightness, texture and taste. There is no mistaking fresh pasta and here, in Mastering Pasta, author Marc Vetri not only shares with us the how to make this wonderful staple, with chapters on hand forming certain pastas, or making sheet pasta, and stuffed pasta, along with amazing sauces, but the history and make-up of what goes into pasta. This is definitely one to have on the shelf! Mouth watering and thought provoking! Easy access to everything is by way of Table of Contents and a great Index. 5 bowls of pasta for this one!
The James Beard Cookbook… Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the best basic cookbooks in America,” The James Beard Cookbook remains as indispensable to home cooks today as it was when it was first published over fifty years ago. James Beard transformed the way we cook and eat, teaching us how to do everything from bread baking to making the perfect Parisian omelet.

Beard was the master of cooking techniques and preparation. In this comprehensive collection of simple, practical-yet-creative recipes, he shows us how to bring out the best in fresh vegetables, cook meat and chicken to perfection, and even properly boil water or an egg. From pasta to poultry, fish to fruit, and salads to sauces, this award-winning cookbook is a must-have for beginning cooks and expert chefs alike. Whether it is deviled pork chops or old-fashioned barbecue, there is not a meal in the American pantheon that Beard cannot teach us to master. 

Do you really read a cookbook?!
Why of course you can! And this classic tome has a wealth of cooking knowledge in-between the recipes! Did you know if you put an egg in bowl of cold water and it sinks, that means it's fresh? Or, did you know white veggies will stay whiter if you cover the pan? And adding a dash of lemon juice can help too.This is only the third revision of this classic cookbook, with a few recipes tweaked for modern times and the addition of a couple dozen new recipes. This is one of those cookbooks everyone should have on their shelf! It's a place for a beginner cook to start learning the basics and a place for the more advanced cook to come to to discover what are some of the things they could do to make their cooking advance to the next level. Great information and easy to follow recipes. Cooking terms, techniques, tools, recipes to build on. Love this cookbook! Loads of useful info and wonderful recipes. I may even have to get it in hardcover!
Whether a five-star chef or beginning home cook, any gourmand knows that recipes are far more than a set of instructions on how to make a dish. They are culture-keepers as well as culture-makers, both recording memories and fostering new ones.

Organized like a cookbook, Books that Cook is a collection of American literature written on the theme of food: from an invocation to a final toast, from starters to desserts. All food literatures are indebted to the form and purpose of cookbooks, and each section begins with an excerpt from an influential American cookbook, progressing chronologically from the late 1700s through the present day, including such favorites as American Cookery, the Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The literary works within each section are an extension of these cookbooks, while the cookbook excerpts in turn become pieces of literature—forms of storytelling and memory-making all their own.

Each section offers a delectable assortment of poetry, prose, and essays, and the selections all include at least one tempting recipe to entice readers to cook this book. Including writing from such notables as Maya Angelou, James Beard, Alice B. Toklas, Sherman Alexie, Nora Ephron, M.F.K. Fisher, and Alice Waters, among many others, Books that Cook reveals the range of ways authors incorporate recipes—whether the recipe flavors the story or the story serves to add spice to the recipe. Books that Cook is a collection to serve students and teachers of food studies as well as any epicure who enjoys a good meal alongside a good book.

Thoughts on this one… This was a hard book to digest at the beginning. I was expecting to read about cooking and food from a "literary" stand point, but having it all arranged like a cookbook became a bit tedious at times. I found myself flipping to different sections because I needed to enjoy reading it as apposed to "studying" it, which I almost felt like when I tried to read it in order. The bits of writing were wonderful, but approach this as a book of short stories instead of a literary cookbook and you'll enjoy it more. I think that I would have been able to enjoy doing that more if it were a physical book, so that I could turn the pages and browse better.

So, do you read cooking books? Read about food? Enjoy food writing? Share your Yummy reads so we all can savor them!

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