Kitchen tales

In normal life, “simplicity�? is synonymous with “easy to do,�? but when a chef uses the word it means “take a lifetime to learn.�?

—observes Bill Buford in Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany (2006; Alfred A. Knopf). I’ve gotten through the line cook part so far….

I find it endlessly (well, almost) interesting how specialized vocabulary plays out, even when those in the know are a relatively small group. In archaeological field work, “check out�? is a simple phrase—be forewarned by the above definition, ’cause checking out a landform is a very complex activity, if done superbly, and requires an awareness of myriad situational factors, for example, post-depositional land use effects, distance to the nearest surface water source, where neighboring occupations were, what the soil’s like—I could go on (but Buford’s more interesting).

Buford sandwiches tales of culinary and gastronomic events, both on this side of the Atlantic and overseas, between the subtitled sections. While in Italy prior to the pasta-making, Buford discusses a treatise that’s more than a cookbook by a Vatican librarian who visited a gourmand Cardinal in his summer retreat outside of Rome in 1463. The librarian, Platina, was no chef, and recorded the recipes and observations of his host’s chef, the Maestro. Platina includes bits of received wisdom—here’s one of the best:

…�?the testicles of younger animals are considered better for you than those of old animals,�? except the testicles of roosters, whose testicles are good for you regardless of the age of the bird, especially if served alongside calves’ feet and spices, in the Roman style.

I await the latest in Science or Nature on this! In the meantime, you can get an English translation of Platina’s book from Amazon for about $20!

For now, thanks for “checking out�? my blahg!

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