Book Review: Heat by Bill Buford

HeatI love books about food. I have a feeling that this will be a trend for me in the near future, probably because of my lack of the Food Network here in Indonesia. This was a solid follow-up to my recent rereading of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

I love this book for quite a few reasons. But, to keep it short, I’ll stick to two: Mario Batali and Pork.

This is a brief biography of Batali, the rock and roll chef of the original Food Network lineup of talent, from his days as a wild stallion in the New York food scene (but like Bourdain) to his apprenticeship in Italy and subsequent reinvention of himself as he swept back into the New York food scene. Bill Buford, an editor, decides that he wants to become a kitchen slave in Batali’s kitchen–and he does just that. It’s a story of Batali molding Buford from afar, imparting some of his long-developing wisdom about Italian food, while Buford bumbles whole-heartedly around the kitchen, lopping off an appendage or two and loving every second of the miserable, hectic life of a restaurant kitchen. Batali inspires Buford to follow in his footsteps by going to Italy and learning at the pasta and butcher boards of his former mentors. Eventually Buford transcends Batali, knowing that he’ll never be a chef in his own right–but he’ll be a passionate cook and food writer with some of the best knowledge in the business.

Ah, pork. I miss you here in Indonesia. I can get you, but not everywhere. This is a love letter to pork as much as it is a respectful history of pasta. I love both desperately, and this book just made me crave both even more.

Heat is a historical exploration of pasta and pork preparation in Italy, as well as the story of a man struggling to understand more about where his food comes from. It’s a really excellent, easy read (with a content advisory based on the nature of restaurant kitchen dialogue…).


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