June 21, 2009
By Tan Hsueh Yun
You've read their food blogs, now should you buy their books?
Cooking & Screaming
By Adrienne Kane
2009/Simon Spotlight Entertainment/
Hardcover/272 pages/$43.50/Books Kinokuniya
Adrienne Kane is about to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley when she suffers a stroke.
The arterio-venous malformation leaves her completely paralysed on her right side and this book is a sometimes poignant account of how she recovers and the role food has played in making her whole again. She has come a long way - starting a catering business, relocating across the country with her husband, starting a food blog and publishing a book.
I check in with nosheteria.com fairly often because I like her sunny tone and the pretty pictures. She has not discussed her troubles at length on the blog but I appreciate it even more now, knowing that it cannot have been easy to do all that cooking and photographing.
The book, however, seems a little insubstantial. The chapters dealing with her recovery and with her dad, who also suffered a series of strokes, are the most heartfelt. But the book then peters out into a collection of anecdotes. Some are interesting, some are not.
Still, there are the recipes, one for each of the 20 chapters. I tried the simple one for Tagliatelle With Grated Zucchini and it is a keeper. The zucchini practically dissolves, making for a creamy, velvety sauce.
The Sweet Life In Paris
By David Lebovitz
Hardcover/279 pages/$43.61/Books Kinokuniya
This is a funny and absolutely un-put-downable account of how American cookbook author David Lebovitz leaves his life and comfortable home in San Francisco and moves to Paris.
It all sounds terribly romantic, of course, until he has to deal with being an American in Paris. There is the dinky little kitchen the pastry chef, who worked at Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant for 13 years, has to contend with. There is also the bureaucracy that thwarts his every attempt to obtain a visa, and the many French people who seem to live only to make his life miserable.
To his credit, the book is not so much a litany of complaints as a wry observation of life in the French capital.
I have new-found respect for him after reading about that kitchen. It has no counter space and even less storage space but he manages to cook an awful lot of things in it.
But ice cream, for lack of space, is made in his bedroom. He tested an entire book of recipes for the frozen dessert (The Perfect Scoop, 2007) with three machines churning non-stop there. I guess I have no excuse for not using the one I recently bought.
The book comes with 50 recipes and I tried the two he includes for Chocolate Mousse. I was intrigued by the one made without eggs, developed for Americans wary of eating them raw. It turned out dense and more like chocolate ganache than mousse.
The other recipe, much like the one I always use by French pastry chef Pierre Herme, produced an altogether different dessert. The mousse, lightened by beaten egg whites, was airy and intensely chocolatey.
I have long been a fan of his blog, www.davidlebovitz.com , for his clearly written recipes. I'm a bigger one after reading this book.
By Matthew Amster-Burton
2009/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/
This book is required reading for any parent wanting to raise children who will not scoff at anything other than chicken nuggets. Former rock journalist-turned-food writer and stay-at-home dad Matthew Amster-Burton writes a breezy food blog at www.rootsandgrubs.com and that same approach carries on to the book.
He has a sensible approach to the care and feeding of little Iris, now four, and that is what makes this book worth reading.
There are no lectures on feeding children only organic food and certainly no dirty tricks like sneaking vegetables into other food.
Instead, by continuing to eat adventurously and well after having a child and by exposing said child to a wide variety of food, he and his wife Laurie have managed to raise a daughter who can tell the difference between supermarket and artisanal bacon (her preferred brand is Nueske's), and who relishes pad thai and sushi.