Title: The Lost Art of Real Cooking
Author: Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger, 2010
215 pages; Hardcover $18.95 US
Publisher: Penguin Group, New York
Reviewed by, Jennifer Zalkin, November 2010
When time, patience and determination pay off,
it is truly a beautiful thing! Perhaps even a monumental
moment in time these days, as I myself feel sometimes
trapped in this world over-run by the play or send buttons. As a
young, independent individual who is obsessed with both art
and food, I found The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala
and Rosanna Nafziger to be a heaping breath of fresh air. Boo
ready- made industrial foods! Why does everything in our
lives have to be quick and convenient? Slow cooking is good
cooking! I believe this to be so! And I thank Ken Albala and
Rosanna Nafziger for reminding me how amazingly special the
labor of one's hands can be! The two did not get together to
write a cookbook. Instead, they wrote a book of history, a
book of truth and shed light on the "magical processes" of
cooking and food preparation that have sustained us for years
The words in their book are directly talking to the reader, talking to you as somewhat of a friend. Each chapter does move from one recipe to the next, but there is no list of ingredients with quantities and pictures of the final product, which is what I am used to. Set up more-so like a book of prose, each recipe is over-flowing with valuable tips for everyday cooking. Albala and Nafziger are insightful and personal, descript and comfortable. This is how I like to be spoken to and lends for a more thoughtful and calm cooking environment. They promote the re-connection with our roots, with techniques that have kept us alive and have sparked the inspiration to a world-wind of new dishes and ways to get there. The two are not avoiding or denying the current times and how we live, but reverting back to a different time, in a way that is both matter of fact and emotional. This book is not for the "on-the-go" people out there. It is for the adventurous cook! The mindful being who enjoys the connection of humanity and Earth. This book goes deeper than cooking. It evokes something that connects mind and body, in this case our hands. And it's true that "real cooking," as defined in this book is a lost but not gone forever.
Unfortunately, where I am in my life doesn't yield much time for some "slow cooking enjoyment." But this book couldn't have come my way at a better time. Sick and tired of the hustle and bustle bubble, I am ready to revert back to simplicity in a different sense. Things like fermenting my own wine, crafting my own beer, making my own butters, yogurts, and pies are ideas that excite me! Today is not the day where I can actually perform these lost arts. Instead, I've replaced some of my everyday, store bought household musts with my own renditions; Ketchup! So easy, and it was even more fun saying to myself, "I'm making my own ketchup!" I infused it with a light essence of rosemary, my favorite herb, and wow! I followed the book in its teachings to how to make preserves, and created a delicious and bold cranberry-vanilla bean preserve which I am incredibly proud of! The bowl of pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce, page 23, the book led me to create was hearty, and I could taste the utter freshness. Its true, freshness cannot be copied or re-created in any other way. Later in the week, when I made meatballs, I for a change left out the egg, and used the "plop method" rather than the fry method. The difference in texture was quite amazing compared to what I'm used to; they were incredibly moist and luscious on the tongue. Lastly, with the baking powder I learnt to put together, the batch of red velvet cupcakes I baked on my boyfriend's birthday were light, fluffy, soft and DIVINE. I'll honestly never waste my money on baking powder again, perhaps its my new "best kept" secret, until word gets out, as it might because I'd recommend this book to most anybody that I know! From cover to cover, this book left me inspired.
Baking Powder: You can eliminate the bitterness of baking powder if you follow the advice of Edna Lewis, the queen of Southern cookery She says you ought to make your own. Hush now it's very simple. In a little jar, put a quarter cup cream of tartar, two tablespoons baking soda, and three tablespoons cornstarch. Mix it with a fork. Use it within a couple of months.
Ketchup: Slowly simmer a pot of roughly cut tomatoes, skin, seeds and all, until they break down. Pass them through a foodmill into another pot, add a cup of vinegar, a cup of sugar, a little ground clove, salt and grated onnion. all this to taste. Add herbs, too, if you like, but the effect should not be tomato saucelike, so go light on the oregano and basil. Cook down on the lowest possible heat as long as you can until thick. It's ketchup!