Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire!

frying panDo you like to cook? Are you good at it? Or is the precise science of baking more your style? They say people are usually good at one or the other, but not both. I am more of a savory cooking type of gal. I like to smell the spices to see what I think might go well with the other ingredients and then sprinkle in as much as I think the dish can take. This, of course, leads to some mistakes, but fortunately mostly successes. However, I don’t mind following a recipe precisely either. Especially, if it’s my first time making something. So, I can bake too. But really prefer not to, due mostly to its effect on my waistline.

The reason I bring all this up is that July is National Culinary Arts month. Whether in the traditional apprenticeship programs of France’s past or the cooking trade schools of today, all chefs had to start somewhere. Chef and foodie memoirs are one of my favorite types of books to read. (And they often have lovely recipes in them!) Here are a few of my recent favorites and some from the more distant past…

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain – This was one of the original, behind-the-scenes, tell-all books of the chef world. I still recall several of the hilarious and sordid stories from this book, even though I read it many, many years ago.

Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado – Despite having a famous sister, Hollywood was still not much fun. Baking turns out to be better for your soul, if not your body.

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey – A delicious, exotic offering by the maven of Indian cuisine. I could hear the words on the page being spoken in her accent in my head as I read the food and family memories. This is truly a beautiful book.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley – This is my most recent read in this culinary sub-genre. Lucy Knisley (French Milk) was raised to be a foodie by her mother. This full color graphic novel shows the major culinary experiences in her life that led her to fully accept that birthright. As soon as I put this book down, I told my “significant other” that I need to own it. 

Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living by Julie Powell – The blog, turned book, turned major motion picture. Yes, I know this one may have been talked about to death already, but I still liked it a lot.

White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming of Age Story by Jenna Weber – Making the decision to go to culinary school was tough, but graduating proves to be even tougher. Especially, when you don’t really want to be a chef, but a food writer instead.

Happy reading and happy cooking!

-Melissa M.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire!

  1. Thanks for the recommendations! I’m a cook too — I find that following baking recipes feels more like a chemistry experiment than creative kitchen work. I’d like to read Kitchen Confidential and White Jacket Required in particular.

  2. lizzy

    Another fun read: Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, ed.Jenni Ferrari-Adler.

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