An attractive mise en place, but one that lacks the simple artistry of that long-remembered potato.

THE MAKING OF A CHEF

MASTERING HEAT AT THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA

A writer enters the Culinary Institute of America, the Ivy League of cooking schools.

Ruhlman (Boys Themselves, 1996) began a love affair with food after an uncle passionately detailed in a letter a potato he'd been served years before at a New Orleans restaurant. Ruhlman entered the CIA with that perfect potato in mind. The CIA, as exacting as the agency with which it shares its abbreviated name, requires students to arrive with a set of freshly sharpened knives and to be familiar with videos such as "Shucking Oysters'' and "Calf Slaughter.'' Ruhlman enters the school with some trepidation, particularly as the first day's soup stock is made with 120 pounds of chicken bones. The actual work of cooking is demanding—students get burned, they must begin work at dawn to prepare for lunch, and they are expected to learn thousands of recipes—but few drop out. Cooking represents a measure of both science and excess—one teacher regales them with a mythical meal of ancient Rome: a cow stuffed with a pig stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a truffle wrapped in foie gras; only the truffle was eaten. Students are expected to work in restaurants during the school year, and Ruhlman effectively captures their excitement and exhaustion as they learn about the real world of cooking. But Ruhlman is not as fine with the details as a cook needs to be. He calls a Reuben a grilled cheese sandwich, and his response to a teacher's impassioned lecture on Alice Waters's ethic at Chez Panisse—which he sums up as "if we screw up the earth, we'll have rotten food''—is needlessly glib. While his insights into his teachers and students are often interesting, the book has little to say about the art of cooking and even less to say about how it all tastes.

An attractive mise en place, but one that lacks the simple artistry of that long-remembered potato.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-4674-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

more