We Could All Use Some Heat

If only, one could have the opportunity to learn from the greatest, as Bill Buford does in Heat.  What starts as an investigative piece on Mario Batali, turns into a teaching meditation on the audacity of good food.  The short bio on Molto Mario becomes a stepping stone to intern at Babbo – admittedly one of my favorite fine dining experiences.  A vivd recounting behind the scenes, where the curtain is parted to reveal that the back breaking work of a busy kitchen, Buford’s endless curiosity is intertwined with the origins and evolution of Italian food, which lead him to an apprenticeship with an infamous butcher in a small Tuscan village.  The lesson is that one learns to be a good cook by doing it all the time, repeatedly, honing all your senses, most essentially by touch.

I want to be a better cook this way.  Instead of fluttering between recipes, which is  how my curious mind works, I should master a few things.  A much more different accomplishment when I have only myself to feed, and not a restaurant that serves 350 people a night.

Over the holidays, I did master my granola, having made ten batches for gifts.  The repetition made me improve my technique – mise en place, getting to know my stove, knowing that moment when toasty starts to cross the line of burned, sharpening my eyes and nose.  A crash course that is small in scale and simplicity, but a mastery nevertheless.


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