Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book review: Notes on Cooking

by Lauren Braun Costello

A book with nothing but cooking tips could be a boring, dusty list of rules, but that is far from the feel of this little volume. I found it delightful. Here are all the essential things that we used to either learn from our mothers (or possibly in school during home ec class), but that just aren’t necessarily passed on anymore in this age of convenience foods. Don't get me already know how I feel about that!

Author Lauren Braun Costello say that “A recipe is like a road map. A road map shows you where to go and how to get there, but does not teach you how to drive.” The “how to drive” part is what this clever book covers, the knowledge that will help you to think like a chef.

Some of the advice is practical (such as add butter to a cold pan, oil to a hot pan, and why) and some is philosophical. Here’s my favorite so far:

Embrace the mundane.
Do not bemoan the pedestrian tasks. Find pleasure in peeling a carrot, steaming rice, searing a steak, prepping, cleaning. Your reward is in the work, not around it.

Cooking is not about convenience, but the pleasure earned through creation and in giving pleasure to others. Shortcuts are tempting, even necessary from time to time. But it you rely on pre-cut vegetables, pre-marinated meats, and canned sauces, you are not cooking. You are assembling.

I don’t want to be an assembler. I want to be a cook.

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