So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Article in Slate about cookbooks by Sarah Dickerson

I don’t know how long Slate keeps their articles up before throwing them in the archives, but anyone who actually reads my little cookbook blurbs should read this article while it’s still up.

“Some cookbook authors are decidedly domestic, writing about common ingredients with an eye to easing weeknight pressures of the kitchen. Others are professional: They attempt to translate commercial restaurant artistry to the lay masses. Then there are those writers who aim to bring another culture to life through recipes and observations. These authors are the cooking world’s equivalent of Alan Lomax, who ventured to the farmsteads and hollers of rural America, microphone in hand, collecting a nation’s folksongs before interstates and television blurred our regional cultures into a homogenous mass. Whether writing about a childhood home, an ancestral haunt, or a land discovered in full-grown adulthood, these ethno-culinarians try to convey, along with recipes, a sense of how history and geography affect the shifting habits of what we eat every day. They interview grandmothers and street cart vendors to understand the technique and gestalt of vernacular food (and to give the readers a wood-fired whiff of authenticity—a knotty but essential concept). They provide guidance in buying unfamiliar ingredients, be it Greek  mastic or Vietnamese culantro”.

Paula Wolfert is specifically mentioned (remember my praise of her in one of last week’s Cookbook of the Day segments)?

Najmieh Batmanglij is also mentioned. I discussed her book, Good Foods of Persia last week as well. Her book, which I don’t have, The New Food Of Life, is highlighted by Ms. Dickerson.

And praises are heaped on my favorite Vietnamese author/blogster Andrea Nguyen. The very book that I mentioned in the first weeks of this blog is reviewed:

“With Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, Nguyen, who immigrated to the United States as a child, unearths Vietnamese traditions and describes how they changed in the immigrant community here among the supermarkets and food processors of the States. She spends ample time demystifying the Viet pantry with practical advice—”Premium fish sauce is reddish brown and clear. Avoid dark inky liquids that are overly salty and flat tasting”—but not without true sentimental moments:

‘One of my most vivid memories is of our cook, Old Sister Thien, squatting and fanning the small charcoal brazier on which she grilled corn on the cob. As the corn cooked to a charred chewy sweetness, she brushed on a scallion oil made with home-rendered lard. The aroma and taste were heavenly’.

So, three out of the six authors (and one of the books) mentioned by Ms. Dickerson on Slate were also spotlighted on my own humble blog. Not bad for a blog that’s only been doing this for a month, even though she chose a different Thai author than I did. But, no worries, I still have another 4 Thai books to review in the future and I’m intrigued about the one that she mentioned, Cracking the Coconut. Great title.

Just a reminder, you can find my reviews of the three authors that I mentioned here:

You can see all of my Cookbook of the Day posts by inserting that phrase into the search engine. However, I didn’t do a full review of the Nguyen book as it was done before I started this series. It was really as much a touting of her website as it was a recommendation of her wonderful book, the link of which website you’ll find in my blogroll. I really should go back and make it a true Cookbook of the Day report.

One response to “Article in Slate about cookbooks by Sarah Dickerson

  1. Dahlia June 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I read about Andrea’s cooking first just a few minutes ago on Chow

    Thank you for your work. I’m interested; I’m going to eat better and I’m going to use this to bring a vietnamese lady friend of mine back to life. (fingers crossed on that one).

    I have a different attitude than you do and I’d like to share it with you. Where you find Andrea’s descriptions (see link above) tedious I find them real. Actually transcendentally wonderful. It’s like watching Julia Child – I get to see how it’s really done – with easy instant replay. I can really know what she means by mixing.

    You’ve been around cooking every day and you have seen millions of these shows. Not I. I love her kinesthetic descriptions. I know I can do it right.

    So there’s the point of view of another, valid with different experience. I’d think that some of your readers are like me and some are like you. (And maybe some somewhere else)

    What’s real is that it’s not the _description_ that’s tedious but YOUR experience of it that feels tedious. So it’s good to remember IMHO.

    Meanwhile thank you again for the open door.

    from West Los Angeles to the World.

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