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The Elements of Cooking: Translating the…
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The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen

by Michael Ruhlman

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I have mixed feelings about this book. It is one-part opinionated essays about cooking (pages 1-50) and one-part alphabetic encyclopedia of opinionated “essential” elements to cooking. There are things I liked about both parts and other things that bordered on ridiculous.

According to The Elements of Cooking, a chef is a leader, as in the head of a restaurant kitchen, and is firstly a good cook. A cook is what I do aspire to be. I don’t want to be a chef: I don’t want a restaurant kitchen. I want good home cooking for my home kitchen.

Because I don’t want to be a chef, some items on the alphabetic list of essential elements seem a bit ridiculous. I don’t need to learn about aspic (gelled stock), offal (innards of animals), and foie gras (duck liver). I won’t be cooking them in my kitchen. I don’t need to learn the French terms for my macaroni’s cheese sauce. I don’t need to know decorative knife cuts for cutting vegetables. However, on the other hand, as a cook, some of the terms, even the French terms, may come in handy if I happen upon a recipe that uses them.

Also, as a cook I found the opinionated essays about cooking incredibly interesting. Those essays are the reason I would recommend this book to the average cook. They make me think about cooking in a different way. I plan on rereading them regularly. Ruhlman included essays on stock, sauces, salt, the egg, heat, and tools of the kitchen.

I recommend Ruhlman’s book to the family cook only half-heartedly. The essays are excellent. The glossary of terms is a bit over-the-top.

Overall, it’s a great book to get you thinking about food, but only with a few tablespoons of salt.

More on my blog
1 vote rebeccareid | Oct 2, 2008 |
Michael Ruhlman’s The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen is a reference book for cooks, professional and otherwise, who want to learn more about cooking. The book consists of eight short essays in the first fifty pages called “Notes on Cooking: From Stock to Finesse,” followed by a dictionary of cooking terms called “The Elements of Cooking: A to Z.”

Ruhlman’s “Notes on Cooking” includes such essays as “Stock,” “Sauce,” “Salt,” “The Egg,” “Heat,” “Tools,” “Sources and Acknowledgments: (Fifteen Good Books About Food and Cooking),” “Finesse: The Cook’s Finest Challenge and Path to the Ultimate Rewards.” These essays were the heart of the book for me. The author’s explanations of the important elements of cooking are illustrated with sincerity (where he, very easily, could have come across as pretentious).

As a recent foodie convert, I found The Elements of Cooking to be just what I was looking for: a useful and well-written book about food and cooking. I’m sure I will refer to it in the future, not least of all because of the veal stock recipe. (4/5) ( )
  library_chan | Jul 30, 2008 |
I've enjoyed everything that I have read from Michael Ruhlman. This book consists of a 50-page introduction that contains essays and ideas that the author believes are foundations in good cooking and of a glossary of cooking terms. Therefore, this book is primarily intended not to be a book to be read straight through from cover to cover but to be a reference book.

I believe the most important section of the book is the eighth essay on finesse (p. 45). Although this section uses cooking for examples, I find this idea of finesse important as a way of living inside and outside the kitchen. The author believes that this concept is so important that the last line of the essay (and introduction) says (p. 49) "If anything, that's what The Elements of Cooking is all about: an effort to appreciate the power and importance of finesse." ( )
  willyt | Mar 13, 2008 |
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Ruhlman’s Strunk-and-White-style guide to the language and grammar of the kitchen is a great help, particularly to anyone — most of us, really — whose brow would furrow if a date pointed to a menu and asked brightly, “What’s salpicon?”
 
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To Michael Pardus and Thomas Keller
You are great chefs because you are great teachers
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It's useful these days when everyone, it seems, has an opinion about food, to know what the hell you're talking about. -- From Introduction by Anthony Bourdain
In the creation of good food, no preparation comes close to matching the power of fresh stock.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743299787, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month November 2007: Inspired by the Strunk and White classic, Michael Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking will quickly prove to be an essential culinary reference for both seasoned cooks and novices who might not know gravlax from gremolata. After a thorough "Notes on Cooking," Ruhlman, a prolific cookbook author and popular blogger, settles in for an opinionated and informative A-Z roundup (from Acid to Zester) of cooking terms, lessons, and techniques reduced to their essential essence. Even with only one recipe (for veal stock), it's a must-have for every kitchen library--a book that will help you re-think your approach to food. --Brad Thomas Parsons

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:59 -0400)

Notes on cooking: from stock to finesse -- The elements of cooking A to Z.

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