Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

14 April 2014

Sacré cordon bleu: what the French know about cooking by Michael Booth [2008]

This is another cooking related book by Michael Booth that I picked up because I enjoyed the author's culinary tour of Japan.  It's an account of the time he spent at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, learning to cook dishes from the French canon such as coq au vin.
The book is funny and well-written and I enjoyed reading it.   It comprises a series of oddly unmemorable vignettes of the author attending classes (cooking demonstrations) and attempting to replicate the meals.  This is interesting as far as it goes, and sets up some amusing scenes.  However, I was oddly unsatisfied by its lightness; what I was really interested in would have been more on the relevance of such old-fashioned cookery in France today.  

The dishes that are taught at the Cordon Bleu remain fundamental to the idea that the French have of themselves, even though the facts suggest that they don't actually eat in this way any more.  The French have embraced US fast food with greater fervour than any of their European neighbours - it's McDonald's second-biggest market - and an exploration of that tension between the reality and the self-image would have been great.
One very interesting point which stays with me is the simple explanation of why restaurant food tastes so different from food eaten at home - it is the result of huge amounts of butter and salt.  I appreciate that this is blindingly obvious, but I had never thought of it before, and I am grateful for the insight.

10 March 2014

Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking by Michael Booth [2010]

A travel book about a culinary journey through Japan.  Very light but better-written than most books ploughing the furrow of "Englishman takes a wry look at a foreign country and its occasionally hilarious ways".

I picked this up because I am mildly obsessed with Japanese food.  It is exotic, but also clean and healthy - whenever I eat it I feel like a better version of myself.  Reading this book reminded me of the Japanese cookery classes I went on a couple of years ago, which completely changed my attitude to cooking and shopping for food.  The author describes the experience of being in Japan very well and reading it made me want to go to Japan and visit the Tsukiji Fish Market before it closes.  And to eat okonomiyaki again.

This book also made me think about reading as escapism and in particular travel books and recipe books.  I have a slightly ambivalent attitude to these sort of books - I love reading them but I am also aware that they tend towards feeding a dissatisfaction with the here and now.