Dy's Take

August 31, 2009

Spiced by Dalia Jurgensen

Filed under: Memoir — Dy @ 14:38

( 66 )

I love cookbooks.  I can’t cook my way out of a wet paper bag eighty percent of the time, but I love cookbooks.  For actual cooking I love older books, ones with far more recipes, and, frankly, usually far simpler recipes, than the newer fancy, photo-filled ones.

The one exception to this rule being a photo essay/cookbook called, “Intercourses.”  The link is to the 10th anniversary edition — mine is the older one and I’ve never cooked a darn thing out of it, but the photos and food talk are lush and wonderful.

Anywho…while randomly flipping through a magazine, Vogue, I think, that someone left in the break room at work, I ran across the booklist and “Spiced” was one of the recommended reads. I thought, “Why not?” and requested it from my library.

And liked it!  I know, a memoir and still, I liked it. It did not, like the review promised, have cool pastry recipes, but the author’s website (myspicedlife.com) more than makes up for this.

I expected to attempt this book—I picked it up thinking, “WHY did I request this?”—and give up, annoyed by the pretension and snobbery of the author (yes, I’ve read Bourdain and it had a deeply negative effect on my opinion of cooks turned writers). Jurgensen’s voice is real and warm. She talks about some of the ugly truths of the restaurant world with gentle good humor and is very generous, probably overly so, to her frequently misogynistic co-workers in this book.

This was a pretty fast read, and I found myself wanting to read it, even abandoning my fiction for it. Are there any big surprises, shocking revelations, or great truths to be had here (other than some of the nicest, yet seemingly honest, things I’ve ever seen written about Martha Stewart)? No.

My biggest issue was the lack of a glossary.  Despite it being mentioned umpteen times in the book, I haven’t the slightest clue what a tarte tatin is. Or mise en place or any of a number of other specific pastry/culinary/kitchen terms the author uses frequently. Some, like mise en place I can guess based on context, but that damn tatin thing, I’m going to have to look that up and that annoys me.

Yes, I live in Central Texas and a nice meal out with Raidman is ~$100 so I have no clue what the world she writes about is like, but at least I’m willing to admit my ignorance.

But still, it was an entertaining read and one that I don’t hesitate to recommend to my memoir loving freaks friends 😉

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