by Marion Nestle
Aug 2 2013

Weekend Reading: Two Books About Cooking

Tamar Adler.  An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.  Scribner 2011.

The book comes with a foreword by Alice Waters and a blurb from Michael Pollan: “Tamar Adler has written the best book on cooking with economy and grace that I have read since MFK Fisher.”  He ought to know (see below).

Ms. Adler cooked at Chez Panisse.  She says:

Cooking is best approached from wherever you find yourself when you are hungry, and should extend long past the end of the page.  There should be serving, and also eating, and storing away what’s left; there should be looking at meals’ remainders with interest and imagining all the good things they will become.

She begins with “how to boil water” and ends with “how to end.”  Very MFK Fisher indeed.

Michael Pollan.  Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  Penguin Press, 2013

A review of this book should seem superfluous as a mere look at Pollan’s website makes clear.   But I want to go on record as saying how much I enjoyed reading it.  He writes about the time he spends in the kitchen learning from experienced cooks how to barbecue (fire), make stews (water), breads (air), and cheese (earth).

The writing is so vivid and engaging that I had the strangest reaction to this book: I could smell what was cooking.

  • brad

    I actually thought Tamar Adler’s book was a bit too MFK Fisher. If I want to read MFK Fisher I’d rather read the real thing. This felt like someone who had adopted Fisher’s tone and voice and was trying to impersonate her. There’s a lot of great advice and ideas in this book, but the writing attracts so much attention to itself that it gets in their way. At least that was my impression. I grimaced and growled my way through it, but I’m glad I persisted because it taught me some useful techniques and approaches to cooking.

  • Charity Kenyon

    I really am enjoying Adler’s book and have purchased multiple copies for friends. (And I have MFK galore). I am learning a lot and find the approach refreshingly uncomplicated and practical.