You almost don’t need to read the book after getting through the world’s longest title. I learned about Bill Buford after I wrote a post offering a list of summer reading books. Holly, a frequent contributor to comments on the blogsite, suggested both Heat and Dirt, by Bill Buford. I read Dirt first, about experiences in a French restaurant, and had mixed feelings about it. I loved the stories, but I truly hated the life inside of a French restaurant kitchen. It’s brutal. This book, however, focuses on Italian kitchens, and more specifically, an Italian butcher shop.
Vegetarians beware – there is significant talk about cutting and eating animals. Though the pig story in Dirt is worse. It’s respectful, but it is detailed.
But it’s also about far more than a butcher shop.
There are ample ways that the author learns how to be an accomplished Italian cook. He learns from many Italians in a variety of places in Italy throughout the book. He has multiple experiences, some of them insanely crazy, in famous Italian chef Mario Batali’s restaurants. The good news – and this is what I hoped – the book did not ruin Italian kitchens for me. These restaurants can be filled with all of the food romance and passion for food that all of us believe Italian kitchens have. There is still the intensity, but it’s not even close to French intensity. And as I experienced in my first trip to Italy this summer, there is an emphasis and fresh ingredients and simple recipes. It’s great stuff.
The book made me want to cook, to talk with friends about cooking, and to keep learning how I can be better.
I truly enjoyed the book, and recommend it highly.