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Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook Paperback – October 31, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press (October 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476202
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,810,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How to come up with yet more laudatory adjectives to describe the continuing excellence and inventiveness of America's premier philosopher of food? If the sustained historical reckonings of Thorne's last book, the ambitious Serious Pig, overwhelmed some readers, this one will gladden the hearts of fans of the looser IACP/Julia Child Award-winning Outlaw Cook. Thorne, who has relocated from the northerly reaches of Maine to Northampton, Mass., here abandons his forages into dour Puritan food culture and throws himself joyfully into the pursuit of, among other things, the perfect pizza, the ideal savory breakfast and the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich. As usual, Thorne's exploratory approach to cooking leads to the debunking of much conventional wisdom. He discovers, for example, that risotto, theoretically a finicky dish, is in fact simple and forgiving; that homemade bread, so often coveted in its fresh-baked state, is perhaps more breadlike two days later. "Knowing Nothing about Wine" reveals more in 17 pages about wine drinking (and wine anxiety) in this country than any number of full-length books. Illuminating disquisitions on pot-cooks vs. knife-cooks, the Irish potato famine and the legacy of Richard Olney divert Thorne from practical experimentation, but he always ends up back in the kitchen. Such is his giftDthe ability to range back and forth from armchair to stove top, inspiring cooks and readers alike. (Nov. 14)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Part memoir, part cookbook, part rambling discourse on why we cook things the way we do, the Thornes' (Serious Pig) new book is a change of pace from many recent cookbooks, which put too much stress on ingredients. The authors also emphasize ingredientsDfresh, seasonal, variedDbut in this book at least, technique is paramount. It is technique, they argue, that validates your cooking, that gives you the right to handle quality ingredients in the first place. Consequently, there are chapters on seemingly simple operations, such as boiling plain rice or making toast. Intriguing, insightful, and wide-ranging, this book can also be overly self-indulgent (offering, for example, a whole chapter on what John Thorne likes to eat for breakfast). This is not for the casual cookbook reader. But for people who like to ponder the deeper meaning of food and explore ever better ways of preparing it, there is much matter here. Recommended for larger public libraries and those with good culinary collections.DTom Cooper, Richmond Heights Memorial Lib., MO
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence W. Prichard on November 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
This most recent compilation of John and Matt Lewis Thorne's Simple Cooking newsletter continues their intelligent, friendly, delicious writing about food and a real life.This book ends with "Last Gleaning," about the final illness of John's father, and the role food and eating played in their sometimes difficult relationship.John Thorne has been compared to MFK Fisher, and there is some validity to the comparison, to an extent. They both write very very good prose, and they both write about hunger other than the visceral. However, there are differences. At times, Fisher's writing seems exclusionary, and Thorne's never does.To clear up a point of potential confusion: "Matt" is a nickname for Martha. They are married. She acts as editor, and does add an occasional essay or aside. Her contributions make a good writer even better.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on April 2, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Both currently available books, `Serious Pig' and `Pot on the Fire', by John Thorne and wife Matt Lewis Thorne, are composed of essays cut from the same culinary journalistic cloth, the authors' food letter `Simple Cooking'. These essays as bodies of work do not quite fit any established form of culinary writing. It is certainly not `The Best Recipe' genre followed by the magazine `Cooks Illustrated' and some writers, although there is some element of this point of view. It is not culinary history, since it is so distinctly done from the authors' point of view. There are some essays that taste like memoir or nostalgia, but these serve more as chapters used to set the scene for text dealing with the food. It is certainly not food science a la Shirley Corriher or Alton Brown, although Alton Brown does credit Thorne as one of his biggest influences. In a nutshell, the Thornes simply provide interesting writing about food.
I love intellectual connections, so I was delighted to discover that one of the wellsprings from which John Thorne draws his inspiration is the writing of Richard Olney. This ties up a string of influence from Elizabeth David to Olney to Thorne to Alton Brown, one of the most influential popular voices in culinary journalism. Olney is one of the most intellectual writers on culinary matters writing in English and available in the United States. And, it is clear not only in Thorne's `Simple Food' motto but also in his intellectual point of view that he owes much to Olney.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By NyiNya TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Our appetite should always be larger and more curious than our hunger, turned loose to wander the world's flesh at will. Perfection is as false an economy in cooking as it is in love, since, with carrots and potatoes as with lovers, the perfectly beautiful are all the same; the imperfect, different in their beauty, every one."

The quote is from John Thorne's essay "Perfect Food." Thorne is obviously not your average food writer, not the celebrity chef du jour penning his memoir plus recipes. He is first and foremost a writer. The food however, is also a star.

The Amazon blurb for "Pot on the Fire" uses a quote from Connosseur Magazine comparing John Thorne to Elizabeth David and M.F.K. Fisher. Good company, to be sure, but Mr. Thorne is way more fun than David, and even more entertaining than Fischer. I love Mary Francis, her references to a world that ended in the 1930s don't resonate today as they once did. She is certainly at the top of the pantheon, but Thorne speaks to us in the here and now.

For all his dry humor and low key style, Thorne (and his wife and writing partner Matt Lewis Thorne)is serious about food. In his previous book "Serious Pig," we learned that necessity was the mother of his inventiveness. He was a penniless college student, taking a hiatus from studies and living on the (very) cheap,at his grandfather's New England cabin. Back in those days, lobsters were there for the taking, and no red tides turned clams and mussels toxic. He learned how to cook what the ocean gave him for free, and what he could scrounge from the land. But he also learned how to buy and cook and appreciate other foods. His chapter on potatoes, for instance, is eye-opening. Who knew Maine grew so many varieties of spud?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love John Thorne, and I own all of his books. The man is a great writer. "My Knife, My Pot" is a great introductory essay to the author and his style and approach. "Perfect Rice" is absolutely beautiful. All of his essays are a complete delight, and it's wonderful to make culinary discoveries along with him. Highly recommended, and for more than the mere recipes--John Thorne is tops when it comes to food writing--authentic, gracious, humble, humorous--an absolute delight to savor and to read.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Hortensia on February 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed John Thorne's other books, but when I read this one I was bored. He has been publishing for a number of years, and you'd think he would grow and change, expand his awareness, try something new. Instead, I get the feeling his life is shrinking and that he is becoming a miserly, curmudgeonly northeastener who is living a narrow and deprived life out of choice rather than necessity. He moved from a small town to a bigger city, but he hasn't changed much, still the narrow anal focus on the details of simple recipes. Living with him must be mind-numbingly boring. I wonder if his wife ever wants to scream and run out of the house? So obviously my advice is, skip this one and reread one of the earlier ones.
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