Media, Technique

A James Beard Award Cookbook and a Netflix Docuseries

Just watched the Netflix four part documentary series featuring the author and her book. Both educational as well as entertaining. Samin Nosrat comes off as a great personality, insightful culinary analyst and a good cook. Thus armed with the delightful TV series, I looked forward reading the book. I was not disappointed. . .

This is the best primer cookbook since The Food Lab by J. Kenjiopez-Alt, published in 2015 and reviewed here. Both books won James Beard Award recognition. Nosrat’s magnum opus is less comprehensive but more approachable. Her thesis is captured in the title and her genius in the sub title “Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.” A not so subtle take on Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking.” If you can master the use of salt, fat and acid and how to heat them–you can cook. Simple as that, says Nosrat, and not too far off, says I. My mantra for decades has been that cooking is all about hard work and salt. This book endorsed that view.

The opening chapter on salt is the best analysis of that subject I”ve ever read. Indeed, read it twice! The other chapters on fat, acid and heat are thorough and well thought out. Strengthening the text and making the whole tome pop are the numerous, colorful and whimsical tables, graphs, illustrations and fold-outs. The recipes, while not great in number, are well chosen and supportive of her views on salt, fat and acid.

Reading this thing cover to cover left me with the view that Samin Nostrat has created a significant contribution to the culinary literature and a cookbook that will endure. Forty years ago, I was blown away by James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. I still refer to it and it is still in print. I think this book will enjoy long years of readership. And Samin Nostrat may well earn a place in the pantheon of great teaching chefs.

It’s that good a book and she’s that good an analyst/chef.

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