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Eating for Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid Paperback – August 17, 2011
With grace, humor, and irresistible recipes, the author of Girl Sleuth takes us on her journey as an amateur chef, amateur farmer, and amateur parent
A Recipe From Eating for Beginners: Carrot Purée
- 1 pound carrots
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash or peel the carrots and chop them roughly; circles are fine.
2. Place carrots and butter in a frying pan (preferably not nonstick) over medium heat.
3. As butter melts, stir constantly so that the carrots caramelize and don't stick to the pan. You want them brown but not burned--about fifteen minutes.
4. When carrots are nicely caramelized, remove them to a blender and add heavy cream.
5. Blend on low, pressing carrot mixture down as it purées, so that it all gets blended together. If it seems too thick, you can add a bit more heavy cream to loosen it up (this is really personal preference, but you don't want it too runny).
6. Remove the carrot purée to a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste, folding it in as you go.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Rehak (Girl Sleuth), a Brooklyn resident and new mom, spent a year toiling delightfully inside the kitchen of a neighboring restaurant to get a handle on where the food we consume really comes from. Volunteering to help long hours at Applewood, a small restaurant in Brooklyn owed by trained chefs Laura and David Shea and devoted to the idea of supporting local farmers and sustainable agriculture, Rehak was able to observe and participate in the "choices and the compromises" of gathering, preparing, and cooking the food we consumers pay good money to eat. At the same time as she manned the garde-manger station, preparing aesthetically pleasing salads and cold appetizers, Rehak had to deal with her finicky toddler, Jules, at home as he refused to eat even toast. Eventually, Rehak was happily promoted to the fish station, and Jules took a bite of a chicken leg. By turns, Rehak proved game at making cheese at a diary farm in Connecticut, sorting beans at an organic vegetable farm in Hamden, N.Y., and, hilariously, getting violently seasick while catching monkfish aboard a lobster boat off Long Beach Island. Lovely recipes at the end of each chapter display her culinary achievements. As part of a welcome, continuing spate of recent works concerned with rehabilitating American eaters, Rehak's chronicle is pleasantly lowkey, generous, and nondidactic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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But she parts company with other foodie ranters in another way: Rehak understands that eating well isn't always easy. As she notes, there's nothing black/white about food choices. She's a great guide toward an understanding and acceptance of the "gray" areas, and learning how to make choices and live with them.
The bonus? Rehak is a gifted writer, and has a terrific sense of humor to boot.
For one year, author Rehak planted herself in the kitchen of applewood, a Brooklyn restaurant that uses local produce, meats and cheeses whenever possible. This book chronicles that year, where Rehak learned not only to chop, slice, grill and fry, but to witness firsthand the relationship between small farmers, growers and fishermen and the people they feed.
Though I have read many books on the subject of small vs. global farming - (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; The Omnivore's Dilemma What Are People For; Stolen Harvest), Rehak's contribution has its place. First, her experience at applewood is a fascinating chronicle of a truly progressive foodie haven, where egos are checked at the kitchen door to make way for passionate, innovative cooking and one inexperienced author-turned-cook. Her stories from the kitchen are informative, inspiring and at times humorous.
Rehak's research doesn't stop in the kitchen, however. During her year at applewood, she visits a cheese maker, livestock farmer, fisherman, produce farmer and organic food distributor to track food from its source to the dinner table. In the end, Rehak (and the reader) gain a better understanding of the challenges and rewards of growing and eating locally.
The writing flows well and Rehak weaves a good story, with the exception of her anecdotes about her picky toddler's eating habits, which distracted me enough to make me wonder why they were included at all. Another questionable addition was the recipes at the end of chapters. In other books, such as Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life and David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris, the combination of prose and recipes relate better to one another and the recipes are incredible. Here, I'm not so inspired.
Those two points aside, it's still a good piece of writing. Well researched and written. Recommended.
As she thinks about what to feed her toddler, she considers the impact of shipping off-season fruits and vegetables across the country (and in some cases the world) on the environment. She balances this concern with her son's refusal to eat most foods (including toast) and her love of imported Austrian cookies that bring back fond memories of her childhood.
Despite a lack of any formal cooking education or experience, she takes a job in the kitchen of a local restaurant (called applewood) that serves mainly local produce and cheeses. She branches out to visit a local farm, dairy, meat co-op, and the distributor who collects those products to supply approximately 50 restaurants. She also survives a bad case of seasickness on a day trip on a fishing boat with no bathroom based out of New Jersey.
The author comes to realize how difficult it is for farmers to break even, let alone make a profit, and what the farms mean to the local communities (as far as open space, jobs, and connection to the food that sustains them).
This quote aptly demonstrates the shift in the author's thinking in the course of her experiences: "...the people and places I was visiting, applewood included, were making an intricate web of eating, environment, and community newly clear to me." She goes on to say, "And supporting them [local farmers] didn't mean I had to forgo the occasional bag of non-local carrots, which I bought when I had to because carrots were one of the few things Jules would eat. It meant making the right choice as often as possible, and accepting that that was all any of us could do."
I didn't find the description of her son's eating habits to be very interesting, but other parents might relate to her concerns about whether he was getting sustenance from the few foods he agreed to eat and her feelings of inadequacy as a mother. She reports what the children of chefs and farmers eat and is gleeful to learn that they too eat fast food and sometimes turn their noses up at vegetables.
The recipes alone are not a reason to buy this book. In order of appearance, they include:
* Candied Orange Peel
* Jicama Slaw
* Oblique-Cut Caramelized Parsnips
* Puffed Cayenne Rice
* Corn Off the Cob with Garlic
* Lucky Dog Creamed Spinach
* Easy Flip Raisin French Toast
* Not So Easy Flip Crab Cakes
* Lobster a l' Americaine a la Steve and Melanie
* Pasta with Delicata Squash, Sage, and Pine Nuts
* Brined Turkey
* Jean's Brussels Sprouts
* Pasta with Bacon, Farm-Fresh Eggs, and Cream
* Lucy's Osso Bucco
* No-grill Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Vinegar
* Pan-Roasted Sardines with Caper Butter
* Under the Bed Almond Cookies
* Melanie's Prune Bread Pudding
If you've already read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan, there is likely not much here for you besides a few tales of a young picky eater and a handful of unremarkable recipes. If you haven't read it, Eating for Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid is a good intro to an important issue. The author quotes Michael Pollan in several chapters so you'll get a feel for his writing style and philosophy which could help you decide whether to continue exploring these issues by reading his work next.
Most recent customer reviews
The recipes come at the end of most chapters --- one after Chapter 2, one after Chapter...Read more