In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite: 150 Recipes & Stories About the Food You Love
Reviewed by MM Pack, Fri., Oct. 15, 2010
In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite: 150 Recipes & Stories About the Food You Loveby Melissa Clark
Hyperion, 464 pp., $27.50
In the relentless stream of new cookbooks published, it's hard to decide which ones are for you. For many people, a deciding factor is the voice of the author – the context in which recipes are provided and the stories that accompany them. Melissa Clark is a real storyteller; she writes with stylish, wry enthusiasm about her life in the kitchen and what she cooks for her family and friends. She admits she is influenced by Betty Fussell and M.F.K. Fisher; her style also reminds me of the estimable Laurie Colwin.
Clark has had something of a fantasy career for someone who loves food and writing. Her parents were globe-trotting gourmands, and she worked as a recipe tester for magazines and books while earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing at Columbia. She began freelancing for The New York Times in 1998 and currently writes a column, "A Good Appetite," for that paper's Dining section. This book is a compilation of stories and recipes from the column.
When I started reading, I was surprised to find how many of Clark's recipes I'd already made – either from the column (bacon and pecan pralines) or by searching online with a food idea that led me to her work (homemade maraschino cherries). As I read more stories and prepared more recipes from the book, successes just kept on coming (brown butter corn bread, salted maple walnut thumbprints, pork chops braised with anchovies, tomatoes, and rosemary). Instructions are clear, ingredients are accessible, and the food tastes great. Everything I've tried, I'll make again.
The recipes and stories are organized into 12 chapters, each one a quirky subject that Clark likes, such as "Things With Cheese" and "Waffling Toward Dinner." ("Breakfast for dinner has a lot of advantages over dinner for dinner.") Clark has a rampant sweet tooth; three chapters are devoted to desserts. And she doesn't shy away from words like "slather."
Particularly because recipes are not organized in the usual way, I wish the index were more thorough. For example, the recipe for a rye Manhattan is indexed not by "rye" or "whiskey" or "Manhattan" but by "Drinks." But the index is the only flaw in an excellent kitchen or bedside companion. Clark is a gifted cook and a talented writer. I'd follow her anywhere.
Melissa Clark will be presenting and signing books in the Cooking Tent at 12:30pm Sunday.
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