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Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family Hardcover – Dolby, October 17, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Dining together allows us to better understand who we are, regardless of our social status," writes Art Smith, author of Back to the Table, a cookbook that explores the meaning of the dining ritual while providing 150 recipes to "strengthen bonds between loved ones." Personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and a contributing editor to her magazine, O, Smith grew up in the Southern cooking tradition, the underpinning of this enticing home-style collection. Smith's reiterated message--that we return to the "sanctity of the table"--is unassailable; his recipes, however, really make the point. Readers looking for good food to cook and share will find the book a much-turned-to treasure.

Chapters like "Breaking Bread," "The Family Meal," and "Food Is Love" organize recipes around the communal eating theme. "The Family Meal," for example, includes exemplary everyday formulas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, such as Zucchini and Tomato Frittata, Carrot-Ginger Soup with Minted Yogurt, and Grilled Fish Fillets with Watercress Mustard and Tarragon. Other outstanding recipes--such as Mushroom, Provolone, and Rosemary Pizza, Sunday Dinner Pot Roast, and Spring Vegetable Lasagna--reflect and encourage shared cooking and enjoyment. Formulas for sweets are woven throughout the book and include such delights as Kumquat-Ginger Pound Cake, Chocolate Pecan Pie, and an old-fashioned Peanut Brittle. Illustrated with photos that depict the food and cooking processes or show people enjoying meals together, the book reminds readers of the culinary and spiritual pleasures of the shared table. --Arthur Boehm

About the Author

Art Smith grew up in the small farming town of Jasper, in the Panhandle of Florida. While attending Florida State University, he completed two prestigious internships with The Greenbrier resort and was selected for the Walt Disney Magic Kingdom College Program. At the age of twenty-four, he was hired by Governor Bob Graham, now a U.S. Senator, and his wife Adele as executive chef of the Florida Governor's Mansion.
Art next traveled extensively through Europe and Africa as a family chef aboard several transatlantic motor yachts. Upon his return to the States, he took a position as chef on the American European Express Train. This led him to Chicago, where he began a career as a teacher at Williams-Sonoma and later as a private chef for the families of various celebrities.
Since the spring of 1977, he has been the personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham. He is a contributing editor to O magazine and writes a monthly column for the food page of Oprah.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (October 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786868546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786868544
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sandra D. Peters on October 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I agree totally that more and more families are getting away from the tradition of actually sitting down and sharing a meal together as often as we once did. Work schedules, children's activities, and other responsibilities often collide. The result can be skipped meals or staggered meals where everyone seems to be eating a different thing at a different time.
The menus in this book are certainly unique. I have tried a few on week-ends and they are delicious. The only negative aspect I found is the preparation time. For those of us who truly are trying to jungle and balance family and work outside the home, there simply is not the time at the end of the day (or the energy) to attempt putting together many of these recipes. Most of the recipes are best saved for the week-end or special family gatherings - they are certainly not your typical everyday, evening fare.
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Format: Hardcover
Art Smith provides different fare from the standard soups, salads, and table settings, while appealing to our fondest recollections of family times centered around food. Mr. Smith looks beyond a recipe's basic ingredients to capture the essence of food as a tool for connection to our family and friends. This book provides a means to meet the need of our society at this time to shore up our sense of security and to distract us from our sense of loss, if only for a few hours -- the memory of preparing and sharing comfort foods deeply rooted in Southern culture, but surprisingly venturing into ethnic cuisines with Pakistani flatbread and Jewish Challah, provides a warm place we can all retreat to for strength. If you like to read cookbooks like a novel, this one provides delicious prose. The recipes that I have tried, particularly Adelaide's Peach Cobbler, Tomato Ginger Chutney, and French Chocolate Almond Pie, are easy to follow, work, and provide the elements for a bountiful table. This book is equally suited for the dinner table or the coffee table.
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Format: Hardcover
In an age of crumbling families and no time, Art Smith brings a nostagic message of hope and help. BACK TO THE TABLE is a cookbook that takes us back to a time when the dinner table actually meant something; before frozen dinners and fast food.
BACK TO THE TABLE is not about the latest health craze or the newest way to cram a meal in between soccer practice and violin lessons. This book is about taking the time to sit down at the table and eat with your family.
The recipes are delicious and simple (if a little time-consuming) and the focus on southern tastes seems to reflect the author's background. Some definite winners in BACK TO THE TABLE are the Grandma's chocolate cake and the incredible chicken tamales.
Art Smith has created a cookbook that is both beautiful and useful, with an important message and tasty recipes. 5 stars all the way.
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Format: Hardcover
I really like this cookbook and I was rather surprised to read some of the reviews that complained about the book being unpractical and unrealistic. I think that although we live in busy times his message is great. Most people I know eat on the run and only eat together (without the TV) during holidays and special occasions. I am one of those people, so this book made me think for a minute.
Although some recipes in this book appear to be more time consuming than others (as in most cookbooks), I have tried several recipes that were very reasonable (time wise). For example, last night I made the Grilled Fish Fillets with Watercress Mustard and Tarragon (i found the mustard at a Flagship Randalls) and the Romaine with Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette. They were delicious and not difficult to prepare. Yes, there are many recipes that seem a little time consuming to make, but I am just wondering why this book is getting so much slack for that. I collect many cookbooks, and typically, unless it is advertised as a "Quick and Easy" cookbook, there is usually a mix of quick to not-so-quick recipes in most cookbooks.
I think the message of Back to the Table is important. Whether you can do it seven days a week or just two, mealtime is a great opportunity to spend quality time with your family. I may not always have time to make a sit down dinner for my family every night of the week, but I am going to make a realistic goal for myself and work on it!
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By A Customer on April 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm really quite surprised by the number of reviews slamming this book for having time consuming recipes. It is a shame this has gotten in the way of people enjoying some really great recipes. One reviewer even stated that "not everyone has a Kitchenaid mixer or a cast iron skillet." OK, I'll give you the mixer, but a skillet? Come on, any seasoned cook should have one and if the don't, they cost a mere $12-$15 and will last for several generations. I use my grandmother's. It is a must when cooking Southern food.
Let's face some facts, here: The recipes in this book are, or are largely influenced by, classic Southern cuisine. First, this isn't 30-Minute Meals. This is not to say all of the recipes take a long time, because many of them are great for a weeknight. But some are meant for Sunday dinners (the most wonderful of family traditions) and special occassions when one has time to devote to lingering in the kitchen. Back to the Table is about slowing down and enjoying your time at the table with your family. It's about tradition. What it is not about is running around like a chicken with its head cut off and trying to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes flat.
Don't get me wrong... Quick cooking is important these days. But if all of our cooking is done in a hurry, even on weekends, we are missing the true rewards of cooking. I recommend that we all slow down, at least once a week, and take time to really be a part of the kitchen.
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