The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time is an odd book. It is a cookbook sans any real measurements, not even for the bread recipes. And although I rarely cook with any measuring cups, when contemplating how I might do something totally foreign to me like (for example) roast a whole suckling pig over a spit, I find it helpful to have a bit more hand-holding than one gets in this book.
It is written by two authors – Ken Alba, who is a food historian, and Rosanna Nafziger, who is a slow-food enthusiast. Their writing styles are complimentary but distinct, and one quickly becomes accustomed to guessing correctly who has penned each section. Alba’s recipes and techniques come largely from centuries-old cookbooks, and are therefore easier to dismiss. I am about as likely to try to make my own almond milk as I am to quit my job and raise goats, which is to say, not very. Nafziger draws on techniques that your mother or grandmother were almost certainly using in their kitchens, and the proximity through time makes her recipes seem more manageable, though by a slight margin.
I’m completely with Nafziger when she encourages me to make highly alcoholic bourbon balls to sedate myself with at PTA meetings. I’m significantly less with her when she encourages me to make whipped cream by hand using a whisk (my dishwasher is big enough to accommodate two beaters sans problem). And we’re just on completely different planets when she describes how her unhomogonized milk forms butter disks while she bikes home with it. You could easily cook your way through this book if you had nothing more to accomplish each day than cooking, and possibly writing a book about the experience of doing so.
This cookbook holds few techniques that a working mother could use to get more whole foods into the family diet. What is does provide in abundance, however, is tremendous practical advice for how to make homemade everything. And although little of that will make its way into my daily routine, it almost certainly will make its way into my life. As Nell grows, she will increasingly be interested in helping in the kitchen. I can see happy weekends of canning, or making yogurt, or even pasta as a sort of fun special project for us to tackle together. And The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time will be a precious resource for those days.
I added Rosanna Nafziger’s blog to my blog roll. See Paprika Head off to the right there. By looking at it, I learned that she is TWENTY FIVE. Holy crap. I don’t think I had accomplished a single life goal at 25 let alone written a whole book. Kudos to her. Also? It explains a lot. I absolutely got romantic about food a decade ago in a way that is just totally impossible today, what with the job and the kids and all. But check her out. She is the path to yogurt success and more.