Notes on Cooking book

I'm sent a lot of books, more than my shelves can handle, most of them heavy cookbooks.  But last week I recieved two books that are delightful simply to hold. One of the pleasures that our increasingly digital age increasingly denies us is the feel of a book. And it's not just the sensory pleasure, though there is that in the texture of the cover, in the edges of the paper, the weight of it; but there's also the anticipation of what you hold in your hands, the excitement of a new book, the hope that it contains many more pounds of pleasure and thought than its actual ounces. You don't get that sense when you hold a Kindle.

I was reminded of this when these two books arrived back to back, the first at my request, the second sent by the publisher.  Obsessed with the fundamentals, I've been eager to see cook and caterer Lauren Braun Costello and writer Russel Reich's Notes On Cooking: A Short Guide to an Essential Craft, published this past spring, and very much in the spirit of my Elements of Cooking, both opinionated guides to the craft of cooking. I love the design of the book and its quirky organization (loosely put together in the stages by which one would proceed in the kitchen, recipe to tools to mise to cooking, etc) and the randomness of the 217 axioms that make this book fun and surprising to read; you never know what's around the next corner ("#16 Use Your Hands and Fingers: Julia Child was fond of saying that a cook's best tool is her hands. As Long as those parts are clean, pick up, grab on, dig in. Connect directly to your ingredients.") I was somewhat dismayed that for all the experience Costello obviously has, she does not recommend using a scale, but rather the scoop-and-scrape method of measuring flour.  For shame.  Otherwise, a splendid, intelligent little volume, perfect for the bedside for those who like to cook in their minds as well as in their kitchens.

I've only just begun Rowan Jacobsen's The Living Shore: Rediscovering a Lost World, a story about oysters, their terrain and how the decimation of that terrain threatens the health of the oceans generally, but it's compelling from the first paragraph and only gets better in both its reportage and its prose and, at 133 pages, will be too quickly polished off.  From the elegance of the voice, I can already highly recommend.  Both these books—hardcovers, but, from Amazon, a very reasonable $15, the cost of some paperbacks—enhance my appreciation for books themselves and the writers and reporters who make them happen (and smart designers who make them so appealing to hold in your hands).

Now, off to butcher hogs with Brian!


23 Wonderful responses to “Two Elegant Books”

  • Tags

    Amen to that, brother!

    I just started to reacquaint myself with a tattered and taped old paperback “Here At the New Yorker” by Brendan Gill.

    I saw you mention it earlier and I resolved to dig it up after the bathroom work was done. It’s every bit as enjoyable as I remember it.

  • ruhlman

    tags, glad you found here at the nyer, I’ve had to put it away for a couple years. maybe i should get back to it again…

  • Josie

    I am happy to hear you give _Notes on Cooking_ a thumbs up – I have been contemplating its purchase for awhile now.

  • Carrie

    Thanks for the recs Ruhlman! Oysters are a minor obsession of mine – I live near the coast and we’ve had big family meals of steamed oysters and hushpuppies for as long as I can remember. I’ll have to check The Living Shore out so I can have something else to worry about. LOL

  • Claire

    “their terrain and how the decimation of that terrain threatens the health of the oceans generally”

    Pet peeve time. It’s _devistation_, not decimation. I hate that the incorrect use of that word has crept into professional writing. Like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    The living Shore is now on order thanks to your article, been looking for a book like this to give to a friend who still can’t grasp that fishing with dynamite is a bad idea…

  • Fuji Mama

    I love hearing about new books. I’m with you, I love the anticipation of holding a book in my hands. Maybe I’ll change, but I can’t seem to lose myself in a Kindle, or reading something on a computer screen, the way I can when I’ve got my nose in a book. Sometimes I’m dead to the world. Why is it that we are so bent on using cups and measuring spoons here in the US? Scale cooking is SO much easier!

  • Bob delGrosso

    “Notes On Cooking: A Short Guide to an Essential Craft, published this past spring, and very much in the spirit of my Elements of Cooking”

    Based on the cover alone, I’d say this was an understatement. Did he have the same designer?

  • ruhlman

    bob, no, not same designer.

    claire, while decimation used to mean kill off one tenth, it’s general use is now, according to my Webster’s: “to destroy or kill a large part of.” Devastate means to “lay waste to” to utterly destroy from the Latin, to make empty. Too strong a word here, but, sadly, only just too strong…

  • brandon b

    I had the good fortune of working on a small oyster farm in brewster, mass. on my vacation this summer. As a chef I learned more about oysters in those 2 days than i have learned in my whole career. Cant wait to read this book, they are a very importanat part of the scheme of things in the ocean. I want to come buthcer hogs with you and Brian!!!!

  • Bob delGrosso


    It’s odd how a word that used to refer to the killing of every tenth soldier in an army by way of instilling fear and inspiring obedience in the remaining 90% could come to have a more general meaning.

  • Rhonda

    Chef del Grosso:

    I know!

    Apparently, this term (decimation) applies to oysters as well as Professional Cooks.

    Who knew?

    I think the difference is Nature vs Chef CIA Instructors but I could be wrong.

    I say this with the deepest fear and Respect.

    Okay, maybe not so much fear because, seriously, we have to create anew. Food is getting boring again.

    Let’s settle on deepest respect for you, Chef Pardus and technique

  • luis

    I have the same problem with Kindle. I love cookbooks that is no secret. A well illustrated cookbook is something I can not pass up easily.
    Got both kinds… unillustrated cook books and illustrated cookbooks. But I appreciate the illustrations a great deal. Someone dragged me to a bookstore today..(I buy cheap books mostly in estate sales and at Amazon) but once in the bookstore at the clearance table I found two outstanding books and bought them. One of them is from Bourdain…( Is amazing the guy can write books that well..) The other is about Asian cooking. As I contemplate retirement in the next few months or years reading and researching and learning seems almost as great as fishing or golfing.

  • Deb Chance

    I really enjoy reading your blog and find everything about it a valuable resource. I would love it if you checked out my website,, and considered writing about my invention, a solution to hot food getting cold on the plate during a meal. It would be an honor if you thought it was a viable product. Thank you!

  • John

    I found your site and Chef Eric’s through a link at Ms Glaze’s site. I read you books and co-authored cookbooks, wasn’t aware of your site. You should get Chef Eric to link to Ms Glaze’s site like you do. After all she works for him and publizes his site. Are you publishing anything new? John