This Christmas, I was lucky enough to have received a veritable shelf full of books, all about food and cooking. For these bitter cold days, nothing beats reading about food, snuggled up on the sofa. Or, should I find myself with actual energy, I may also cook some of the recipes.
Service Included: Four Star Secrets from an Eavesdropping Waiter. The first book from Phoebe Damrosch about her time as a waiter at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York was also the first book I picked up from my presents and then couldn't put down. Like many very watchable two star movies, I gained no particular insight into life or literature, but I did enjoy the backstage peek into fine dining. With Thomas Keller, no less. Told from the point of view of an intelligent, twenty-something friend fascinated by food but unsure of her life's direction, Ms. Damrosch takes us through training, serving, and leaving, along with her romances throughout. Honestly, I could have done without the romance, finding her descriptions of and tips for diners eminently more interesting. Also, although I always suspected it, I was surprised to hear that six figure salaries were the norm for that level of servers. Her comments on the gender differences among servers were also insightful and worth the read.
Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. Edited by David Remnick, this collection of short pieces delivers what I've always wanted: an endless supply of New Yorker stories devoted to food. Having read Bill Buford's piece many years ago, and subsequently his amazing book, Heat, about his travels with Mario Batali and through Italy, I have been hooked on the quality of the articles in New Yorker and their ability to peel off more layers of the onion, if you'll excuse the pun, to reveal the full answers to my food questions.
Beard on Food: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom from the Dean of American Cooking. In a word, hardcore. Reflecting an intense love of food and a more traditional approach to cooking, the book features articles ranging from preparation to memories of great meals. Old school and great.
The Hooters Cookbook. Because TPB has a sense of humor, and, on a good day, so do I, I received the Hooters Cookbook. Which would theoretically allow me to enjoy the wings without the degradation. It does sort of funnily include "shortcut" tips which include going to Hooters and picking up the wings, but hey, it is a restaurant. And I did laugh out loud when reading Amazon.com's product description, "The Hooters Cookbook salutes the 'Man Food' and carefree lifestyle that makes Hooters restaurants a worldwide destination." I mean, "Man Food"? really? Hilarious.
The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals. Although I have no children, TPB and I share a penchant for kid-friendly foods like pizza, hamburgers, fries, and other such super-healthy options. Here is the solution, finally: sneak in healthy foods, but have them taste unhealthy. You might think it's for kids, but face facts: it would work for you, too.
The New Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. If you're a foodie, I'm going to guess that you also enjoy the social aspects of sharing a meal: the revelations that cooking brings, the act of selection, the carefulness of preparation, the sacrifice of time, and the sharing of something visceral. You may have also seen Like Water for Chocolate, the ultimate movie about how food affects love and mood. So follows Intercourses, which offers recipes ranging from oysters to pumpkin and ginger soup, grouped by aphrodisiac ingredient. The recipes are also interspersed with stories of love and food, certainly two of my favorite things.
My thanks to the gift-givers.