A delightful chronicle of the education of a cook who steps back frequently to extol the scientific and philosophical basis...

Having described what’s wrong with American food in his best-selling The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), New York Times contributor Pollan (Journalism/Univ. of California; Food Rules, 2012, etc.) delivers a more optimistic but equally fascinating account of how to do it right.

The author mixes journalistic encounters with tales of skilled, often relentlessly obsessive cooks who demonstrated the art of transforming the products of nature into tasty food and then tried, with spotty success, to teach him to do the same. Four sections describe this transformation with the four classical elements: fire, water, air and earth. Humans cooked with fire first. Preparing meat over an open flame retains its appeal in the ritual of the backyard barbecue, but Pollan illustrates the original in its purest form, working with pit masters of the Old South to roast pigs very slowly over a smoldering wood fire. Cooking with liquids came later when human invented pots, and cooking moved indoors. After musing on the exquisite Zen boredom involved in chopping onions, Pollan discusses his work with an enthusiastic Chez Panisse chef, who schooled him in the subtleties required for perfect stews, braises, soups, sauces and stocks. Air plus grain equals bread; earth provides bacteria and yeasts to perform the alchemy of brewing, fermenting, pickling and cheese-making. Turning food preparation over to corporations saves the average family 30 minutes per day in exchange for an avalanche of extra sugar, salt, fat and chemicals that costs more and tastes worse.

A delightful chronicle of the education of a cook who steps back frequently to extol the scientific and philosophical basis of this deeply satisfying human activity.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1594204210

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955