The Book is Way Better Than the Movie

Here’s another light, quick and fun read for foodies – ‘Julie & Julia’ by Julie Powell. It was also turned into a movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

The Julie is JuliePowell. a nearly 30 year old woman living in NYC with her husband, Eric. Stuck in a rut of temp jobs (she eventually scores a government job that deals with post 9/11 recovery), Powell is angst filled with issues of fertility, not really having a job and living a getting no where fast life in a Queens barely there apartment.

She embarks on a year-long project where she plans on making every recipe in the original Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the classic cookbook by Julia Child. She then chronicles her journey on a blog.

We follow her ups and downs at home, at work and in the kitchen. Most of it is delightful and funny. Then there are parts that make you want to slap her and say, ‘Get over it. Your life isn’t that hard.’  She admits to being overly emotional and has screaming breakdowns with all her real and imagined frustrations.

In between are imagined days in the life of Julia Child taken from the book ‘My Life in France’ written by Child after she achieved fame. I wish there had been a few more.

But all in all, this is a great read. The movie was superficial and didn’t come close to the Ms Powell’s energy and humor.

Highly recommended.



The Food of Love is Hot!

This is actually the third time I’ve read The Food of Love by Anthony Capella.

A foodie take on Cyrano de Bergerac where food rather than poetry is the means of seduction, the book will make you hungry and horny (the sex scenes are hot but classy and may not be for all  readers.)

Bruno and Tomasso are best friends living and working in Rome at a high-end restaurant. Bruno is a line cook (chef) and Tomasso is a waiter.

As the story goes Tomasso has the hots for an American woman, Laura, who is studying Renaissance Art in The Eternal City. He overhears her say she would love to date a chef and so he pretends to be one but enlists Bruno to do all the cooking.

Bruno, too, has seem Laura in the streets of Rome and has fallen madly in love with her so he creates insanely great meals for Tomasso to serve to Laura.

As expected, chaos ensues with lots of sex, mafia bosses, lies, cover-ups and a handful of broken hearts.

Of course, it all works out in the end, but the path to resolution is a fun, well-written book.

Highly recommended for foodies but the rating is Adult (but fun Adult.)


Do you think you have what it takes?

Having just finished Michael Ruhlman‘s ‘The Making of a Chef’: Mastering the Heat at The Culinary Institute of America‘.  I am exhausted.

Not from the rereading (although I felt the book moved slower that the first time, I read this great book several years back) but from the amount of time, energy and hard work it takes to become a professional cook/chef. I was aware of this, of course, but Ruhlman spares nothing and does so in a most entertaining and passionate manner. His pursuit of how to make a good stock takes up a good part of the book and while that might not sound interesting, it is.

Ruhlman spent a lengthy time at the Culinary Institute of America (from here on in called the CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, where he actually participated in the classes, waited in tables and cooked in the CIA restaurants. There is another CIA campus in Napa Valley, California.

The CIA is the best culinary school in America, some say the world. Each student must have some professional culinary experience to be accepted in to the almost two-year program. The classes are in three-week blocks and cover everything from basic skills (such as how to make stock) to baking (both bread and pastries) to working the line in all  of the onsite restaurants. Classes are day long and include hands-on work and a lecture.

Ruhlman is a great writer and you can almost hear the chopping and sizzling and voices of the excellent teachers. You can almost smell the food roasting and frying. And you certainly feel the stress that comes from the intensity of learning and doing all the work.

Students learn all the skill necessary to work in a professional kitchen, but the learning goes much deeper. They develop the stamina it takes to be successful in the daily grind. They learn speed and finesse. They learn patience and precision. In other words, they learn how to think like a chef.

I first read the book when it came out in the late ’90’s. Since that time, I acquired a chef son-in law who graduated from the four-year program at the CIA. I have a greater appreciation of all that Ruhlman experienced.

He always considered himself capable in the kitchen but by the end of the he took pride in knowing he was a cook.

He quite a few other food related books about chefs, with other chefs, skills and such. I hope to read the ones in my collection soon.





Go-to Dish

Unlike many of you out there in this time of stay-at-home, I have not gotten into cooking fancy and elaborate dishes. I admire your efforts and wish you would make a delivery, but I just haven’t been inspired to do a whole lot in the kitchen.

We’ve gone quick and easy, even when I cook a dinner with a protein and a couple of sides. We’re doing breakfast for dinner more than ever.

For lunch we seem to eat a lot of sandwiches (usually the same ones over and over.)

The one dish I seem to crave is a Caprese salad, but rather than make an beautiful presentation like photo above, I just chop the cheese and tomato, toss with good olive oil and balsamic, sprinkle herbs and a dose of Parmesan and that’s it. A hunk of good bread is all I need.

Have any of you out there, done the same? If so, what are you eating?

Born Round


‘Born Round’ is yet another memoir of a New York Timesrestaurant critic, but in reality, the ‘critic’ part is only about one quarter of the book and doesn’t really show up until the last part of the book. This book is about food and Frank Bruni’s relationship to eating and living.

Frank Bruni followed Ruth Reichl in the envious position at the Times, after working at several positions at the paper; one requiring him to live in Italy (which he loved doing, by the way.)

Bruni took his new job with some doubts as to whether the job was right for him. he had, after all, struggled with food issues for his entire life. Binge eating, fad diets, purging, over-the-top exercise routines, Bruni did them all.

And this is what his book is all about.

At turns, the book is a serious and sad, funny and heartwarming.

And while this could be just another one of those ‘how I came to terms with my food issues’ book, in Bruni’s deft hands the story a fascinating exploration of how food is an expression of one’s self worth.

Bruni grew up in a happy middle class Italian-American family where food was central to daily life and a way to show that you were loved. But Bruni doesn’t blame his grandmother’s (and mom and aunts) for his issues. He celebrates their lives and the relationships he had with them and the rest of the family (his dad, a voracious eater, his two brothers and a sister.)

He also writes of his love life – he is gay – and how often food and his personal life connected, or didn’t.

This is a well-written book, but then I’ve always enjoyed Frank Bruni’s work.

In recent years he began to lose his sight due to what the doctor’s call an ‘eye stroke.’ This all occurred since the book was published so there is no mention of it in the book.

These days his writings are more political but still tremendously well done.


Another Food Critic’s Memoir

Mimi Sheraton was the first woman food critic for the New York Times. Many people believe Ruth Reichl paved the way but it was Sheraton who in 1975 began a long tenure in that capacity.

While her book and writing isn’t as detailed or as interesting as Riechl’s, I enjoyed it. Ans while there is a section devoted to her time at the Times, she wrote and worked for Vanity Fair, Seventeen and other magazines both as a food writer and columns on home decor and design.

She got into a feud with Craig Claiborne during her time at the paper. She wrote a negative review of a restaurant he had praised and it grew from there. I’m not sure how her career continued since Claiborne was the editor of the Food Section and so influential to modern dining and food writing. I’m not sure she was well-liked, but I dpn’t think she gave a damn.

She and her husband traveled the world through her work and I was impressed how she would have an assignment with one magazine and then pitch related ideas to other publications, sometimes two or three at a time.  Now that’s the way to make a living as a freelance writer.

She also writes about her time as a consultant at everything from the opening of the Four Seasons, the game changing iconic restaurant in NYC to the public school system in the city to prison food at Riker’s Island.

I enjoyed the book but felt it dragged a bit. I missed the detailed descriptions of food that Reichl wrote and in some ways I felt she thinks highly of herself hence the writing gets a little boring. But she did win a James Beard Award along the way.

But there is no denying she helped change the way women were treated in publishing,

From the Beginning….Saving the Best for Last

‘Tender at The Bone’ is my favorite of all of Ruth Reichl’s memoirs.

Maybe because the book is so pure. I’m sure she wrote this one without any concept that there might be another one, let alone three more.

Her life growing up in Greenwich Village, the people in her life, the move to Berkeley, California, the beginning of her culinary career are full of passion and excitement. Her writing is passionate, too. She truly cares about making people happy through food.

The restaurant she helped run, The Swallow, in Berkeley served food garden to table long before the movement became a cuisine.

She was at the forefront of food criticism and in many ways changed the way food writing was done.

The people she writes about from Birdie, her sort of granny, to a young Alice Waters seem to come alive.

The food she prepares is so artistically described you can almost taste each bite.

Anyway, if you haven’t read any of her works this is the book to read. Pure Reichl and an absolute pleasure.