Your Garage Summer Reading Amazon Fashion Learn more Discover it $5 Albums Fire TV Stick Sun Care Patriotic Picks Shop-by-Room Amazon Cash Back Offer roadies roadies roadies  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Introducing new colors All-New Kindle Oasis AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Best Camping & Hiking Gear in Outdoors STEM
Customer Review

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A knockout of a book: exciting, smart and -- oh --- great recipes, January 18, 2012
This review is from: Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita (Flexibound)
I'm often asked, "What's the best book you've read recently?"

Right now, the answer is: "Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita."

This causes confusion. A cookbook has no plot, no real writing. No thrills, no romance. No memorable takeaway.

Well, this one does.

Indeed, "Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita" is to cookbooks what James Salter's "A Sport and a Pastime" is to novels set in French villages.

You can tell from the very first paragraph that Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, who have created six Canal House cookbooks from their charming studio in Lambertville, New Jersey, had the kind of experience in Italy that imprints and inspires. Here's how the book starts:

"We rented a farmhouse in Tuscany --- a remote, rustic old stucco and stone house at the end of a gravel road, deep in the folds of vine-covered hills. It had a stone terrace with a long table for dinners outside, a grape arbor, and apple and fig trees loaded with fruit in the garden. There was no phone, TV or Internet service, just a record player and shelves and shelves of books. It had a spare, simple kitchen with a classic waist-high fireplace with a grill. It was all we had hoped for. It was our Casa Canale for a month."

And how's this for...yes, poetry?

"Warm a half cup of extra-virgin olive oil and 2-3 cloves of thinly sliced garlic in a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat until fragrant. Add 1 pound thickly sliced, cleaned, fresh porcini. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and stew the mushrooms until they are tender, 10-20 minutes. Add a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Serve over thick slices of warm crusty toast. Serves 4."

Not a word wasted in the recipe or the prose. Great visual writing. And the pictures! Christopher Hirsheimer has long been the gold standard of food photography, but in this book she goes beyond what I thought possible --- these pictures aren't food porn, they're art. And not in a gratuitous way. The purpose of their books, Hirsheimer and Hamilton like to say, is to "make you hungry."

Not every recipe rings the bell for me. I'm impressed by the simple elegance of prosciutto and figs, a soup built around escarole, a hearty minestrone, osso buco, Bolognese sauce with prosciutto, chicken livers, ground chuck and ground pork, and cheesecake from the Jewish quarter of Rome. I love recipes with ricotta and am astonished to find how easy it is to make. Authenticity has its limits for me --- I am less fond of anything with truffles, homemade pasta, stewed eel and rabbit.

But the thing is, you don't need an addiction to real Italian cooking to lose yourself in these pages. You can read it as a travel book. As an adventure story. As a sensual experience that yields deep pleasure for the authors --- and the reader. I inhaled the book for the first time late at night and under the influence, but even in the unforgiving morning after, I still swoon over passages like this:

"Every day we had small adventures. Driving through the countryside, we'd stop at markets, dairies, and wineries to check everything out. Along the way, we'd gather what looked good to cook for our dinner. We preferred to eat out for lunch; it was more fun, and then we didn't have to brave the narrow, winding roads after dark. We'd peek inside the kitchens of the restaurants where we ate. More often than not, it was women in white cooks' smocks who were manning the stoves, tending big pots of ragù and cutting and filling anolini from smooth sheets of fresh pasta."

"The big, rich flavors of fall were coming through the markets and farms and into our kitchen. We cooked with chestnuts, rabbit, porcini, pumpkin, cabbage, peppers, radicchio, apples, and pears. Like the Italians, we developed flavors as we cooked. We fried battuto --- onions, carrots, and celery --- into fragrant soffrito; toasted tomato paste to add color and richness to sauces; deglazed pans with red wine, allowing it to reduce to its very essence; and we balanced sweet and sour in agrodolce."

"We know that cooking is not only about ingredients and techniques. Recipes have a spirit, they are born of a place and a culture, and to cook well you have to be sensitive to and honor that spirit. Italians are refined traditionalists; they want their ragù bolognese served with parmiagano-reggiano and never pecorino romano. It just wouldn't taste right otherwise. They are generous, too: It's evident in the way they cook. They pour olive oil liberally, shave white truffles with abandon, toss their pasta in the sauce, dress salads by feel ---and they have a word for it: abbondanza."

Wow. Just that: wow.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]

Comments

Track comments by e-mail
Tracked by 1 customer

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 26, 2012 3:23:19 PM PST
An eloquent--and accurate--review. Thanks! (And what's with the correct spelling and punctuation? That, too, is a rarity on Amazon...)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 26, 2012 3:41:08 PM PST
headbutler says:
Re spelling and punctuation: HeadButler.com is a web site. These Amazon reviews are re-posts. Thanks for noticing.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 10:53:37 PM PST
Carla Wong says:
"Indeed, 'Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita" is to cookbooks what James Salter's "A Sport and a Pastime' is to novels set in French villages."

This is the best. What a beautiful review! A joy to read.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›