The Anatomy of a Dish Hardcover – 17 Oct 2002
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Here's the problem for me. Beautiful as it is, with this book, the art director was WAY too much in charge. Art directors tend not to be as concerned as writers (and READERS) about actually being able to read a book easily. Looks and originality in layout are far more important. The result: much of the text is in what appears to be 8-point font size and less. It's layed out in a column format, sometimes 2 columns, usually 3. Compounding the problem, the small text is often printed in colors, so, for example, we have what appears to be gray text on a cream colored page. Additionally, most pages have at least 3 font styles ... so you have serif, sans serif, and italics all on the same page.
My advice: carefully study one of the sample pages online, if possible ... or go physically examine this book before buying. It's gorgeous, but this is a case of good looks winning out over good (layout) sense. Cooks need to be able to glance down at a recipe while standing and easily see what their ingredients and directions are. Not the case here.
She builds on this by providing the normal dining classifications of appetizers, soups, salads, etc., but by forming and explaining how she utilizes this plant class system.
There are exceptional creative stuff here, e.g. Artichoke Bruschetta, Lemon Porridge with Asparagus and Basil, Ruby (Beet) Risotto with Winter Greens, Sauteed Scallops with Onion Pan Gravy, Sauteed Flounder with Braised Rhubarb, Short Rib Terrine, Quinoa-Crusted Chicken.
Working with veggies, fruits and grains, this concept will start you thinking and dreaming up your own variations of this plant classification scheme.
Fascinating stuff to read, try and explore.
What is disappointing-- or actually somewhat misleading, given the way the book is being promoted-- is how little educational information is presented. The volume is touted as a new approach to cookery, based on a botanist's information about the plants that serve as the foundation for Forley's dishes. True, charts of botanical family trees are provided, listing the plants according to type. What is missing is any kind of theory that allows us cooks to use this information. Forley says that it can be instructive to think in botanical terms rather than according to standard edibility groupings of vegetables or according to times that plants ripen. Unfortunately, she doesn't guide us in any ways to employ this knowledge of plants' flowering types. She says she has gotten far using this scientific information, but a reader gets the sense she pays short shrift to her intuition and taste buds, preferring to cloak her instinctive experiments in academic terminology. She does not explain how her knowledge led her to combine different vegetables and herbs, or to build from basics into a full-bodied dish. She simply asserts that the botanical genealogy charts promote these types of skills.
In the end, what the reader gets is a collection of recipes with a theoretical idea tacked on. If you are interested in tasting the dishes that are served in the author's restaurant, Verbena, or want another chef's cookbook, this may fill the bill. If you are seeking a theory-driven, educational book about culinary skills, look a bit further-- there are several on the shelves right now, including Culinary Artistry, Healthy 1-2-3, Sauces, and Great Tastes Made Simple.
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