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Coming of Age in America
on August 27, 2012
"White Jacket Required, A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story" by Jenna Weber is indeed a coming of age story Jenna has a great boyfriend, a loving family and is living the American dream. It is great to have it all, and this young woman does. She is a child of privilege who aspires to be a food writer.
With this goal in mind and after completing her college education, she moves clear across Florida to attend a branch of Le Cordon Bleu where cooking is taught and chefs are created. This book chronicles her trip through culinary school as she sorts out what sort of cooking appeals most to her, and lands squarely on baking.
Her writing, as she begins her book is liberally sprinkle with adjectives as most food writing is these days. She also adds a scattering of recipes, a couple at the end of each chapter. These recipes are good enough to be worth the cost of admission all by themselves.
After school, Jenna manages to serve her internship at a country club near her family's home, and then in an organic supermarket bakery. Her dream to be a food writer is, of course, fulfilled by her blog, entitled "Eat, Live, Run" - a clever play on name recognition, and by this book that is out this year from Sterling.
We ride along as she sorts through boyfriends and job offers in wine country, and it is a pretty nice ride. But, as it always does, life pulls Jenna up short, and we see this young woman mature on the pages of this book. Her writing style tightens; her heart and soul begin to emerge without adjectives, but with the truth born of pain. It is fascinating to watch this young writer begin to come of age. Today she lives and writes in San Francisco, having made a clean break with the world of her childhood.
Because this is a culinary journey and one with recipes, I followed my rule of thumb to actually prepare at least three recipes from each book I review. One of the recipes came to Jenna from her friend Adam. He prepared this cheesecake during an audition meal at a vineyard. It is a very nice and made with, of all things refrigerated crescent rolls. Once I read the recipe, I had to try it. I also baked up a batch of Jenna's Old-Fashioned Potato Rolls, which are very like my mother's recipe and are light, fluffy and have that special flavor that only fresh yeast rolls have. I also made her Lemon-Brown Sugar Chicken - a nice treatment for boneless chicken breasts.
This book gives one the rare privilege of seeing a young woman come of age in the kitchen and in the world through her own recollections. It is a refreshing read.