Bill Buford’s ‘Heat’

Another good kitchen read.

images-2Staff writer for the New Yorker, Bill Buford was commissioned to write a profile of celebrated New York chef Mario Batali. To do so, Buford wrangled his way into Batali’s kitchen as his ‘slave’. Eighteen months later, Buford had progressed from lowly kitchen hand to line cook, along the way spending time in Italy with the people who nurtured Batali’s skill and passion–learning the craft of pasta making in a hillside trattoria and the art of butchery in Tuscany.

Heat is a fascinating book, masterfully written, full of the most gratifying kitchen voyeurism, endearing characters, intelligent reflection and priceless insights into the complex world of food and why it matters. I like it!

A concluding paragraph:

When I started, I hadn’t wanted a restaurant. What I wanted was the know-how of people who ran restaurants. I didn’t want to be a chef: just a cook. And my experiences in Italy had taught me why. For millennia, people have known how to make their food. They have understood animals and what to do with them, have cooked with the seasons and had a farmer’s knowledge of the way the planet works. They have preserved traditions of preparing food, handed down through generations, and have come to know them as expressions of their families. People don’t have this kind of knowledge today, even though it seems as fundamental as the earth, and, it’s true, those who have it tend to be the professionals—like chefs. But I didn’t want this knowledge in order to be a professional; just to be more human.

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