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!