Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Reading

Thanks to the nice people at Penguin Books, Chronicle Books, and DK Publishing, I have had the pleasure of doing some summer reading. Who reads cookbooks? I do for one. And as I peruse a few other blogs, so do other people, so I'll share the fun I've been having of late.

First up? Food 2.0 by Charlie Ayers. Who is Charlie Ayers you ask? Charlie Ayers is the chef hired by Google in 1999 when the company was very small. Charlie is the guy who built the food empire that is Google cafeterias.

I wasn't sure I would like this book all that much. You see, when I was younger, I worked for a large food company at their headquarters. On the bottom floor of the building was the company cafeteria. It was expensive, bleh food, hardly enjoyed during the 30 minutes given you to consume a lunch.

Would Charlie Ayers' cafeteria be different. Well, for one, I know it was. I have heard stories of the Google teams efforts to feed their people and even invite the families of their employees to enjoy meals together. I heard it was a great cornucopia of world wide food selections. But was it good? Did it call out to the people?

After reading the cookbook and back story provided by Charlie, I want to work at Google, just for the food! Ayers not only shares his recipes, but his food philosophy and reasoning. And a lot of it makes sense. It is simple, easy to make food, that not only tastes good, but is formulated to be nourishing. He believes in eating local, and tells you why and how to make the decision for yourself.

I recommend this book for new cooks, wanting to learn the reasons to cook and not use take-out. He helps you build a basic pantry of foodstuffs that you'll actually use and re-use. I also recommend this book for all cooks, because we all get stuck in ruts and need something fresh to keep us excited to be in the kitchen.

My favorite recipe so far? The not to be missed Nina's Kimchi. I'm also looking forward to making myself some vanilla infused vinegar!

Second up. Meat, A love story. Not for the faint of heart. However, a great story of meat. As a food source, a passion, a career, and a tragedy. Susan Bourette takes you on a journey in pursuit of meat, from processing plant to fine dining witha few stops in between. It is a great summer read, I recommend to everyone.

She begins in a meat processing plant, and shares the trial of being a pork packing house employee. My first response was to throw the book across the room and run away, to my favorite butcher shop to be comforted by the little packages of meat. Never again to think of the story of how it actually got into that package. Isn't that anyone's first response when confronted by the harsh reality that is a processing plant? We really don't want to know where our meat comes from. The sacrifices that are made on our behalf.

However, I was drawn in. I could not put it down. I, like Ms. Bourette, am a carnivore. The journey from packinghouse to butcher shop, off to a wonderful "happy" farm, on to a fine dining restaurant. Rapt is how I would describe my two day journey through the pages.

Again, each of us has decisions to make on how we will eat. This book will help you through your process. Local farming, grass fed beef? Mass produced or happ farmed? Which choice will you make? Take the time to read the book. Susan may help you out a bit. It did confirm some things for me.

Two other books to come shortly!