Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cookbooks and personality

One of the genuine pleasures of reading cookbooks is when the personality of the author shines through from beneath what, after all, is a manual.

Here's Marcella Hazan talking about her kitchen instruments:

Nearly all the kitchens I have seen, mine included, have more tools and pots and gadgets than are strictly needed.

The "mine included" -- succint, delicately placed, and gently ironic -- creating a perfect bond of complicity between author and reader. She knows what you're thinking, and she sympathises. She's here to help.

And she's responsive to our whims, our love of convenience and short-cuts like a lovable grandmother.

There is not the slightest justification for preferring homemade pasta to the factory-made. Those who do deprive themselves of some of the most flavorful dishes in the Italian repertory.

When you are unable to get good fresh tomatoes, rather than cook with watery, tasteless ones, it's best to turn to the dependable canned variety.

Even when fresh porcini -- wild boletus edulis mushrooms -- are available, the dried version compels consideration ...

But not too indulgent, of course.

She has tried, "again and again", to reconcile the use of the microwave with the principles of Italian cooking, and "happily, she has failed."

How can you not be tickled? When was the last time you heard someone say, "Happily, I have failed"?

On "instant" polenta (as opposed to the real deal):

It is so easy and takes such little time to make polenta using the instant product, that I wish I could regard it more favorably.

Isn't the last turn of phrase just heart-breakingly delightful?

1 comment:

Brendan said...

I request more posts on good cookbooks and cookbook authors. Not having much experience with Italian cuisine, I had not heard of Hazan, but 100 or so 5-star Amazon reviews make me think I should check her out...