- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 26, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781400034475
- ISBN-13: 978-1400034475
- ASIN: 1400034477
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 459 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany Paperback – June 26, 2007
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“Buford develops a superbly detailed picture of life in a top restaurant kitchen. . . Heat is a sumptuous meal.” —The New York Times“Delightful. . . . Charming. . . . [Buford’s] style is . . . happily obsessed with a weird subculture, woozily in love with both cooking and the foul-mouthed, refined-palette world of the chef.” —The Washington Post Book World“Exuberant, hilarious, glorying in its rich and arcane subject matter, Heat is Plimptonesque immersion journalism. . . . With Heat, we have a writer lighting on the subject of a lifetime.” —The Los Angeles Times Book Review
About the Author
Bill Buford is a Staff Writer and European Correspondent for The New Yorker. He was the Fiction Editor of the magazine for eight years, from April 1995 to December 2002. Before that he edited Granta magazine for sixteen years and, in 1989, became the publisher of Granta Books. He has edited three anthologies: The Best of Granta Travel, The Best of Granta Reportage, and The Granta Book of the Family. Bill is also the author of Among the Thugs (Norton, 1992), a highly personal nonfiction account of crowd violence and British soccer hooliganism. For The New Yorker, he has written about sweatshops, the singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, and chef Mario Batali. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1954, Bill Buford grew up in California and was educated at the University of California at Berkeley and at Kings College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a Marshall Scholarship for his work on Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. He lives in New York City with his wife, Jessica Green, and their two sons.
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An established magazine editor and successful author Bill Buford has always been an amateur cook, but in his late forties he decides that living in an ephemeral and materialistic world of slight success, fashion, and fame is not enough for him. He wants to understand the soul of things, and ultimately that means understanding where the food he eats comes from and how it is best prepared, and while at first that means writing a magazine article on Mario Batali, the search ultimately takes him to Italy where he learns to make fresh pasta, butcher pigs and cows, and while falling in love with tradition and heritage also come to see poignantly how they can change and disappear as well.
The book swings back and forth between two places. First there's Buford's hometown of New York City, where Mario Batali runs the finest Italian restaurant in America and where Bill Buford has situated himself as a kitchen slave. Then there are the hills of northern Italy where Batali learned the power and allure of true and traditional Italian cooking, and where Buford traveled many times in the search for the essence of food, and the origin of things.
Batali's Michelin three-star kitchen is a source of endless conflict, and Buford describes it brilliantly as though the kitchen staff were a ragtag motley platoon of misfits and maniacs caught at war. The hills of Italy, on the other hand, are an endless source of fascination and wonder for Buford, and it is in these sections -- powered by Buford's love -- that are slow and at times ponderous to read.
Like a brilliantly prepared Italian dish, "Heat" is full of subtle and sublime flavor, created by the author's wonderful and precise use of detail and food nouns, and while this like good food can activate all our senses and stimulate intoxicating memories it can also be at times too rich and thus at times a bit revolting. (Was an entire chapter on polenta really necessary?)
And this book can only be truly appreciated by the true gourmand, as it is so densely packed with culinary terminology and thinking.
While Buford's preparation and execution can be a bit much, I did come away learning a lot from this book, lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life, as I deepen my culinary practice: How simplicity can take a lifetime to master, how a food tastes of its ingredients (case in point is how pasta is defined by the quality of its egg) and of the devotion of its practitioners (it seems that only petite Italian women with very small hands with nothing to do all day but make tortellini can make true tortellini), how meat is defined not by the breed of the animal but by the breeding of the animal (feed a cow real grass, and let it grow strong and big by letting it till the fields and roam the pastures, and you'll have excellent beef), and how food can unite families and define cultures like nothing else (Italians believe they invented food).
And so unfortunately with the advent of modernization, technology, and globalization, food culture is slowly being lost to us. Here is an Italian master's poetic and poignant description of what we have lost:
"In the seventies, the chianine were good. They tasted of the hillsides and clean air. They ate grass and had acres to roam in, and, because they were work animals, they were exercised constantly. The meat was firm and pure. It might take two weeks before it softened up. Today, the chianine do not have hillsides to roam in, because you use a tractor to work vines, not an animal. And instead of grass, they eat cereals, grains, and protein pellets: mush. They eat mush. They taste of mush. And after the animal is slaughtered, the meat behaves like mush: it disintegrates in days. A chianina is a thing to flee from!"
Only a very small sliver of the population can afford to work for many months for free, to shuttle back and forth between New York and Italy while maintaining a New York City apartment, and dine regularly on the very best hand-made, small-batch, "slow" food. It's one thing to illuminate those artisans, such as those of Northern Italy the author had spent time with, who are keeping old traditions alive. It's another thing altogether to expect that large-scale, factory-made food is going anywhere soon. With more and more people to feed, and more and more of them demanding increased quantities of meat, the privileges enjoyed by the Bill Bufords of this world will continue to be an extreme rarity, even as it serves to inspire the rest of us to care a bit more about our traditions, the food we eat, and how we prepare it.