Cleveland journalist Michael Ruhlman has made a career of being a fly on the wall. His nonfiction books have covered subjects from pediatric surgeons to craftsmen boat-builders. But it was his research into the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., that launched him headlong into the seductive world of food.
Food for Thought: Sharing the harvest at “swap meats” and seed exchanges
When I reach Joan Nathan at her home in D.C., I hear the rattling of pots and pans. She’s giving instructions to someone in the kitchen. “Is this a bad time?” I ask. “I can call later.” She tells me it’s fine—she’s just picking up after a fundraiser she hosted the previous evening with guest chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. Nathan, a two-time James Beard award-winning cookbook author and New York Times food columnist, is well-known for her PBS series "Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan." We settle down to discuss her latest opus, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France (Knopf, 2010).
I’ve been reading a lot of food books by and about chefs lately, and in doing so, found a few titles that have been referenced repeatedly. This particular trio of tomes helps the cook understand flavors, why food behaves the way it does, the reason behind recipes and how to make dishes your own. The information in these books is useful for beginners and professional cooks alike. It’s about understanding the logic of recipes in general and why they work—or don’t. Fair warning with McGee: You may become an unending source of food trivia.
Diana Kennedy bursts over the phone line like a dynamo. She’s in California and we’re discussing Oaxaca al Gusto (University of Texas Press).