Listen While You Cook by Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain

Audio Cassette Sampler of Comfort Me With Apples, More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, produced for promotional use only, not available at stores. Audio cassettes and hardcovers of the individual titles are sold at most major book retailers.

Random House Audio Books, 2001

Reviewed by Christina Grace for Good Cooking
November, 2001

Listen While You Cook

I always listen to music while I cook.  I even have enough multi-tasking ability to sing along while working away in the kitchen.  That is why I was intrigued by the idea of Listen While You Cook from Random House audio books.  With so much reading to catch up on, how great to listen to those books while cooking?  The cassette I sampled includes excerpts from two books on my reading list, Comfort Me With Apples, More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

I relish time spent both reading and cooking.  Unfortunately, this cassette seemed to interfere with both.  Perhaps the cassette jacket should have prepared me better for the obvious nature of the content, by including titles.  I made a simple Farmer's Soup to a chapter on Ruth Reichl's whirlwind affair with her publisher, and "Food is Sex" from Bourdain's book and found neither appetizing.

Lesson one from the experience: cooking is noisy and requires concentration.  The mere task of chopping onions can interfere with the words on the tape.  Moreover, if you are listening to the tape while working at an onion with your razor sharp chef's knife, I shudder to think. Listening to a book, unlike background music, requires close attention, which could take your eye off dinner.  Suddenly, you are engrossed in the story and you smell the distinct odor of burned garlic, or your risotto has stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Lesson two: listening to a book is very different from reading one. It leaves much less to the imagination. There are just some things that are better read than said. Both memoir chapters seemed disingenuous.  Reichl's over-dramatic portrayal of her affair and Bourdain's blatant desire to shock just did not ring true. This may also be due to the authors' reading styles. Neither did justice to their stories. I wonder if I might have found such lines more sincere had I read instead of heard Ruth Reichl say in reference to eggs, "This is what I always thought sex would taste like."  Never mind Bourdain's play-by-play of an alley romp between a new bride receptioning at a Provincetown grotto and the grill cook (obviously not the groom or this would not have interested the author).  Most likely readable, even amusing topics, but I wondered as I cooked, if this tape was really meant to be used while cooking…

Comfort me with Apples, More adventures at the table by Ruth Reichl---read by the author. 6 hrs. abridged - 4 cassettes also available as a hardcover. 4/10/01

Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain---read by the author. 9 hrs. unabridged - 6 cassettes also available as a hardcover. 5/15/01

Quiet in the kitchen, pay attention to what your are doing or you'll cut yourself---no fooling around, no radios and no whistling!  That was Chef Vyhnanek's rule when he was executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton in Boston.  Good Cooking suggests that you listen to audio cookbooks while sitting down and not while cooking for safety reasons!