A charming little gift for an inquisitive cook.




An admiring account of an exotic spice with a long and varied history, by a food writer whose imagination keeps the story light and lively.

Since the blossom of the crocus plant is the source of saffron, Willard (A Soothing Broth, not reviewed) opens with the legend of the Greek youth Crocus, who was turned into a flower by a nymph grown weary of his attentions. Various ancient Mediterranean peoples—the Sumerians, Persians, Minoans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans—used saffron not just to flavor foods but as a perfume, a dye, and in cosmetics and medicinal concoctions. (For the latter, Willard includes numerous recipes, complete with directions for use.) There are even recipes for an ancient bouillabaisse and an ancient brodetto to illustrate the differences in the French and Italian approaches to this saffron-flavored dish. Into her richly embroidered history of the spice—imagined conversations and thoughts have been freely added for color—Willard inserts her personal experiences with it: her initial discovery of its special comforts, the saffron crème brûlée pie she served her family after her mother died, childhood dining adventures in Pennsylvania Dutch country (a Schwenkfelder cake recipe is given here), and a trip to Spain to witness the annual saffron festival in the little town of Consuega (lots more recipes). Eventually she plants a field of saffron-yielding crocuses next to her Brooklyn home, a labor-intensive venture that yields enough of the precious stuff for one grand party and reveals to Willard the secret of saffron’s eternal appeal: “that so little is needed to turn life into a sumptuous feast.” For newcomers to saffron, she concludes with a brief primer on buying, using, and growing the spice, and she appends a generous assortment of saffron recipes that just didn’t find a proper home elsewhere in her narrative.

A charming little gift for an inquisitive cook.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8070-5008-3

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?


An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet