The Man Who Ate Everything

My Summer Reading List: Heat

Originally posted on July 08, 2009.

Last time on My Summer Reading List, I reviewed Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Cheflebrity Anthony Bourdain. Beyond all of the hype Kitchen Confidential is simply a book about a chef who becomes a writer. This time around I am reviewing Heat by Bill Buford. All awards and accolades aside Heat is simply a book about a writer who becomes a chef.

Bill Buford HeatOh those midlifes. In my first 40 years on earth I’ve been a musician, a dot com guy, a writer and a chef. I wonder what 50 holds for me?

I could sit here all day trying to wax poetic about the transformation Buford made from literati to culinarian. but I don’t have to. I’ll just steal Buford’s words, “In the beginning, there was a writer, the ghost was the chef. In the end, there was the chef, the ghost was the writer.” Heat reads like two different books. The first is one of those culinary adventures that are so en vogue and the other a biography of Mario Batali.

The idea for Heat began when Buford threw a dinner party back in 2002. Batali was a guest at that party but by the time it ended the then-editor at the New Yorker had decided that someone needed to do a profile of the Iron Chef. Unfortunately Buford got no takers so he resolved to do the story himself. A fateful decision to say the least.

Buford elected to take six months to work in the kitchens of Babbo, Batali’s three star Italian restaurant located in New York’s Greenwich Village. When the story was done, Buford wasn’t. He resigned his post at the magazine to continue work his way up the ladder at Babbo. Before long he was on a plane to Italy to learn the old ways. His journey would find him hanging with Marco Pierre White in London, hand rolling pasta in Tuscany and butchering a pig in his New York apartment.

Heat is very well written as one would imagine from a writer of Buford’s experience and does a wonderful job of showing his journey from white collar to chef whites. Those thinking of making the career change to the culinary arts would be well served to read this book before turning in that letter of resignation.

Next: The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffery Steingarten.

My Summer Reading List: Tender at the Bone

Originally published on June 4, 2009.

Recently I ventured over to amazon.com and purchased a box full of foodie books to read over the summer. As I complete each one I will review them here for all to see. The list is an impressive one and I have chosen to lead it off with Ruth Reichl’s 1988 opus Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table.

Ruth Reichl Tender at the BoneOthers on my summer reading list include Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain), Heat (Bill Buford), The Man Who Ate Everything (Jeffery Steingarten) and The Making of a Chef (Michael Ruhlman).  I know what you are thinking, “Shouldn’t he have read those already?”  The answer is yes I should have.  You know what?  I haven’t seen Rainman or Switch Blade yet either.  I’ll get around to it.  But first, Tender at the Bone:

First published in 1988, Tender at the Bone was way ahead of the curve.  After all, the phrase foodie didn’t really even exist at the time nor the Food Network for that matter.  Bobby Flay was still in Culinary School.  Emeril LaGasse was only known for being the guy who replaced Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace.

Tender is the story of a lifetime immersed in food, a coming of age tale a lifetime in the making.  When reading, one feels that Reichl is telling you her life story over a bottle of red and a plate of brie and grapes rather than leafing through an autobiography.  On more than one occasion I was left thinking, What an amazing life – she should write a book about it.  That’s how easy the prose is, it reads more like conversation.

Ruth Reichl grew up during an amazing period of strife and growth in America’s history but she was not a bystander; she was in the thick of it.  When hypocritical Northerners ridiculed the Deep South while keeping minorities at a safe distance in their own lives Reichl was color blind.  While many hippies dreamed of joining a commune, Reichl lived in one.  And through it all there was food.

Tender at the Bone is a must read for anyone who loves food and believes in the force that food can be in a person’s life.  There is a reason why Reichl sits at the head of the table of food writers with the likes of Bittman, Ruhlman, Steingarten and Burford.  The reason?  She is damned good at what she does.

Next: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

Review: The Coconut Oil Miracle

The set-up to this simple book review is a little long.  Bare with me, there is an amazing payoff.  The issues of health are quite complex and we simply can no longer afford to sum them up in 300 words.

For decades now Americans have mistakenly associated “skinny” with “healthy.” They are not the same thing. You can be perfectly healthy while still sporting a belly roll. Six packs abs, though sexy, are usually the result of dehydration. However, you will be healthier if you reduce the excess body weight and that, unquestionably, is where the confusion comes in.

Actual Fake Newspaper HeadlineIn their quest to get your attention the national media comes up with headlines that confuse health issues.  For instance, the media has erroneously reported that salt causes heart disease, hypertension and any number of ailments, not true at all.  What research has determined is that salt aggravates existing conditions but there is no evidence that it causes them.  Salt can aggravate  high blood pressure doesn’t sell newspapers like Salt, the silent killer.  The downside is there are idiot law makers out there that only bother to read headlines when deciding public policy (yes I am talking about you, New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz).

One of the most egregious examples of the national media twisting scientific research in pursuit of the almighty dollar is the assault on fats that began in the early 1990’s.  First they reported that we should eliminate all fats from our diets.  When enough nutritionists complained they revamped it to say that saturated fats were evil and we should eat more unsaturated fats.  What science has determined (and the media ignored) is that it is not an issue with fats at all.

It is all about fatty acids – a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid consisting of four or more carbon atoms connected by a unbranched aliphatic tail called a chain.  These chains can be short, medium or long.

Does that sound confusing?  It is.  And simply put the average journalist cannot comprehend it, not without studying the science involved anyway.  Therefore we get summaries like, “eliminate saturated fats from your diet.”  Our bodies require two types of fatty acids to perform properly, Omega 6 (usually found in saturated fats) and Omega 3 (usually found in unsaturated fats).  Obesity occurs when there are significantly more Omega 6’s than Omega 3’s.

One of the casualties of the assault on fats, aside from the truth, is the assumption certain botanicals are bad for you because they are high in them.  Avocado springs to mind.  For most of the 90’s we were told not to eat avocado because it has too much fat.  As it turns out, avocado is quite healthy.  Another item we were told to avoid was coconut oil; it’s a saturated fat.

The Payoff

Bruce Fife, a certified nutritionist and naturopathic doctor, has written an eye-opening book on coconut oil and its unmatched health attributes.  The medical shock journalists are right, coconut oil is a saturated fat, but, as Fife explains, it is a remarkably healthy one.  In The Coconut Oil Miracle (Avery, 2004), Fife examines the science the media has chosen to ignore.

The author explains the three kinds of fatty acid chains in depth, short (olive and canola oil), long (butter, lard) and medium (coconut oil).  He illustrates how medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) have been proven to promote weight loss, defend against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, prevents premature aging of the skin, bolsters the immune system and can even improve digestion.

As it turns out pan fried chicken cooked in coconut oil is is better for you than grilled chicken.  Gravy made with coconut oil and organic flour is better for you than gravy made with low sodium stock and corn starch made from genetically modified corn.  What’s even better about cooking with coconut oil is that the taste and texture are exactly what you would expect with unhealthy fats.  There is no coconut flavor either.

Coconut oil does have its drawback though it is mainly functional.  It has a low smoke point, 350 degrees, which is too low for most deep frying.  Seafood should be fried at 360 to 375.  You can deep fry at 350 but do not expect your batter to be as crispy (this can be helped by using rice flour instead of wheat flour).  Breaded items tend to do ok.  You can use coconut oil for anything you sauté.

Fife relies on tons of research citing each by name so you can check the results yourself.  There have been countless studies done on isolated cultures in the Pacific where coconut makes up a large portion of the daily diet.  The findings reveal that these societies have an astoundingly low occurrence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The Coconut Oil Miracle is an example of the kind of research each of us should be doing ourselves.  Trusting in hit-and-run journalism in magazines and on the nightly news has done more harm than good to our society.  Fife’s book is a testimony to proper research but it does have one drawback, the recipes.  I have tested a few and they have been at best okay and at worst an utter disaster (like the coconut oil mayonnaise).

This does not surprise me.  Most nutritionists I have known do not care if something doesn’t taste good or has a funky texture as long as it is healthy.  If this were not true it is doubtful anyone would have ever had to endure a rice cake or tofu.  The key to cooking with coconut oil is to simply use it where you would other fats, especially saturated fats.  Fried chicken , biscuits, gravy, et al can be a part of your everyday diet if you use coconut oil.

If you are serious about eating healthy then you need to stop relying on articles (like this one) and start reading books (like The Coconut Oil Miracle).  You have to do research – in-depth, time consuming research – otherwise don’t bother.  Eat whatever you want and suffer the consequences because flowing from one fad to another is far worse for you than just not giving a damn.

Other suggested reading to help you do your own research:
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth
Substitute Yourself Skinny by Susan Irby

ICA: Symon vs. Trabocchi

The judges for Battle: Basil are all highly accomplished food writers: the angelic Kim Sunée (Trail of Crumbs), the curmudgeonly Jeffrey Steingarten (The Man Who Ate Everything) and the hippy-ish Andrew Knowlton (Bon Appetit Magazine).  With a panel like that the challenger, Fabio Trabocchi, had better bring his lunch because Iron Chef Michael Symon is waiting.

According to Fabio Trabocchi’s web site bio:

Fabio Trabocchi is meticulous about his cooking – from the sourcing of ingredients to the butchering of meat to the Italian traditions that are the foundation of his dishes. This attention to detail is, in turn, evident in his extensive knowledge of Italy’s culinary heritage, skillful techniques and creative imagination. Fabio’s passion for cooking grew organically beside his father and grandparents growing up in Italy’s Le Marche region.

By the age of 8, he was very comfortable in the kitchen, which explains his decision to pursue culinary school in his early teens and his progression of apprenticeships in kitchens throughout the region. By age 16, he was working in the kitchen of a three-star Michelin restaurant, Gualtiero Marchesi, and at 18, he was responsible for the entire kitchen staff at the Michelin one-star Navalge Moena.

Fast forward to the present and Chef Trabocchi is a James Beard Award winner, a published author (Cucina of Le Marche), has run his own multi-star kitchens and is now a challenger on Iron Chef: America.  Unfortunately for the Italian-born chef Michael Symon joins him in Kitchen Stadium.

SPOILER ALERT: Click HERE for the outcome.

Follow Stuart via “the Online”

Sip & Chew with Mike and Stu

Add to Google

addtomyyahoo4

Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

Stu’s Latest Kindle Single is Just $2.99

Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

Archives

Subscribe to this blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

ISO 9000 Culinary Arts Certification