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Unplugged Kitchen: A Return to the Simple, Authentic Joys of Cooking Hardcover – October 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow and Company; 1st edition (October 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688113133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688113131
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One is quickly motivated to follow Viana La Place's advice in Unplugged Kitchen, which is to simplify what you cook and how you prepare it. More than a cookbook, this is her manifesto on bringing back the simple pleasures of honest, good food in everyday eating. An artfully designed and illustrated work, it includes recipes for such humble Italian dishes as Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Panino (a kind of sandwich) of Grilled Portobello Mushroom, and Green Peas Cooked Pearl Onions and a Lettuce Hat. Using the best ingredients is essential. Part of La Place's purpose is to promote a demand that will make these foods more available to all of us.

From Publishers Weekly

LaPlace (Verdura) extols the sensual rewards of cooking?and eating?simple Italian fare. In her utopian kitchen, produce from roadside markets shares space on well-worn countertops with hand-driven tools. Slicing, chopping, grinding a pestle in a mortar or turning the handle of a food mill or cheese grater are physical acts that bring the cook close to her ingredients and preclude the need for kitchen machines. Some 200 meatless recipes rely on established tradition and embrace the current vogue for simplicity. Most call for surprisingly few ingredients and preparation steps, allowing cooks to attend closely to selecting the best ingredients, to engage fully in the processes of preparation (one of which is the oft-forgotten step of tasting) and presentation. Recipes include such earthy fare as Persian Herb Pie; Red Squash and Bread Soup; Refined Artichoke and Potato Stew; Green Tomato Risotto; and Fresh Figs with Almond and Chocolate Stuffing. LaPlace's focus on simplicity revives such elementary satisfactions as a Tomato Cocktail, a Peach Sandwich or tangerines eaten with a cup of espresso. Chapter headings and brief essays scattered throughout recall how a food or dining custom transformed a routine moment into a lasting, redolent memory. This is a purist's book that is likely to reawaken for many modern cooks the essential pleasures of the basic acts of cooking.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Before I begin, let's get one thing straight: I don't cook. I HATE to cook. I grew up dodging my mom's requests for help in the kitchen, reasoning that if I never learned to cook, I'd never be trapped in the domestic drudgery of slaving over a stove for myself or anyone else. Eating disorders, weight wars, and a long ambivalent relationship with food ensued.
This book was one of the best things that happened to me after I started healing myself from these woes. La Place pares down the processes of "cooking" to their essence: choosing, preparing, and enjoying the nourishment we all need to stay alive. She lists simple tools that bring the cook into direct contact with the lovely colors, shapes, smells, and textures of food --- a sharp knife replaces the food processor, for example --- and suggests a basic pantry of ingredients to have on hand for a nearly endless variety of delicious combinations. There are also shopping tips, ideas for reducing waste in the kitchen, wonderful memories of favorite meals, excerpts from classic writings on food, and more.
La Place's writing is inspiring yet down to earth, and the recipes are lovely, wholesome, and extremely simple. This, I suspect, is why this book is out of print --- there's no hype here, no trendy ingredients or complicated gadgets required, and thus, not much to sell. Too bad. It's held a place of honor in my kitchen from the day I got it, and would no doubt add a healthy dose of simplicity to many more.
If you're lucky enough to find a copy, get it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Carol D. O'Dell on October 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Unplugged Kitchen is a romp through the Italian countryside. Viana La Place is not a pretentious culinary snob, but a down-to-earth woman you'd find behind an apron with olive-oil drenched hands. Her writing and her recipes are exquisite. I read the book for pleasure, and everything I've made is simple and clean and delicious. Forget the machinery and assortment of kitchen gadgetry. Get back to the food and the land--and this book will make this journey and elegant delight. It's one of my favorite cookbooks--stains and all. It's been well-used and well-loved.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
What a refreshing presentation of foods in their healthiest and most delicious forms. This is just plain good reading, never mind great cooking. LaPlace lets the beauty of the foods shine through.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Martha Shepp on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is my favorite book because of its design. I use it in the graphic design classes I teach to show how a recipe, its arrangement on the page, and pacing of the pages in a book can transcend mere instructional information and offer wildly wonderful emotive experiences. The subtlety that the designers impart with a combination of hand-wrought text and typeset text in the colors of olive green and black, and shades of those two colors is a joy to behold. All this AND the best recipes ever, and the philosophy of using our senses to reawaken ourselves to life's beauties are folded into this truly wonderful and life-changing book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H. Laack VINE VOICE on September 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For many, cooking has turned into a spectator sport, with large audiences for programs featuring chefs and "nutrition experts" who have turned one of life's basic needs--eating--into an almost impossible task. As a result, far too many people settle in front of a screen with processed food in hand while they watch unbelievably complex (and often not really tasty) dishes laboriously prepared and judged.

Unplugged Kitchen is a wonderful anecdote for such culinary overkill. Viana La Place provides simple guidelines more than recipes, enjoins us to avoid wasting perfectly wonderful parts of the foods we purchase (example: "Don't ever throw away good dried bread..," page 136) and includes basic common sense advice so often missing from magazines and TV programs. For example, consider this from page 144: "So, don't be afraid to repeat dishes. Decide on a few simple signature dishes and serve them again and again to your heart's content--for family and for friends. Remember, the complexity of your cooking or its ceaseless novelty is not the measure of who you are."

As others have noted, the graphics are lovely and the text is eminently readable, even if the book is propped on an inconveniently low kitchen counter.I ALMOST gave this only four stars because many of the ingredients that La Place encourages are just not available to those of us who don't live in Southern California or other Mediterranean climates. It would be wonderful to have the quinces and persimmons readily available or to live near small-scale ethnic bakeries, but these are not options for many of us. Still, the overall merits of the book make it definitely a five star choice, for its refreshingly down to earth approach.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Raines on November 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this cookbook when I was pregnant with my first child. Her gorgeous prose about the wonder of summer tomatoes actually created in me a true-to-life craving for them - something I had never eaten fresh before.

I've since read the entire cookbook several times for pleasure. It's a truly delightful and delicious read. The recipes make your mouth water, they are all so full of fresh flavor, and they are also easy to follow with consistently fabulous results.

Unplugged Kitchen is a great addition to any home library, and a must for anyone looking for incredibly delicious recipes with a focus on simplicity.
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