A delicious compendium of food facts and practical advice showcasing 50 foods that everyday cooks, gardeners, foodies and the modern gourmet should include in their culinary repertoire.
The Art of Eating founder Behr deftly makes the leap from magazine to book format in this delightful handbook. Rather than a cookbook, the collection succinctly provides details of the provenance for each food combined with practical aspects of buying, using, preparing, harvesting and storing them, including notes on wine pairings. Using the guideposts of aroma, appearance, flavor and texture, Behr hones in on what the slippery concept of “the best” means for each of the highlighted foods. Beginning with anchovies, the author moves alphabetically through foods that include cabbage, chestnuts, eggs, figs, honey, lemons, rice, plums sweetbreads and walnuts. Most are raw, but a few, such as a selection of cheeses, bread, and ham and bacon, have been “fermented or otherwise transformed.” Behr proposes using the least amount of industrial processing possible, which results in foods closer to nature that yield more complex flavors. The author’s harvesting, buying and storing tips will be useful to anyone confused when confronted with a pile of cantaloupes or the proper way to purchase a fresh goose. Though no recipes are included, Behr’s advice on complementary foods goes a long way toward helping cooks head in the right direction tastewise: Components of a pear salad might include walnut oil, lemon juice, crunchy lettuce or Belgian endive. Ham has an affinity for cooked greens, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, a little garlic, onions or a few hot peppers. Don’t dip blue crab in butter, or the “subtle flavor is lost.”
A treasure trove of culinary history, sound advice and easy enlightenment—though consuming the narrative in one sitting is not advised; try spreading the enjoyment by dipping in often for tasty bites.