Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix

Mark Bittman's newest cookbook, Kitchen Matrix, is an original recipe book for sure.  It is made up predominantly of images, and not the food porny type of images we've become accustomed to.  The photographs are straight-on and no-nonsense.  As the title of the book suggests, the images and the text essentially come together to form diagrams.  As different looking as this book is from Bittman's previous cookbooks, it actually draws its content and general concept from his articles and earlier books.  Bittman's recipes often include a simple model recipe and then multiple possible variations on it.  Kitchen Matrix basically does the same thing, but with the addition of photographs instead of purely textual explanations.  I really like the way Bittman writes his recipes, and I think the idea behind this book is interesting and original.  However, even though the images are supposed to make the basic concept of Bittman's recipes even easier to understand, I find that it actually makes for a cluttered and at times confusing book.  Perhaps with time one would get used to the structure, but I for one find it unnecessarily fussy.  There are so many little boxes of tiny recipes without ingredients separated out, and some sections have a master recipe in a small font at the very bottom of the page and then photos of different groups of types of ingredients.  The theory is that you can pick and choose between those groups of ingredients, but in the process of reading the book, I found myself searching all over the page to find the ingredients.  Some sections just include straight-forward recipes.  Others include four basic cooking types (baked, braised, mashed, fried, for potatoes) and then under each type one main recipe and then under that two variations.  Does that sound confusing? It is.  The book includes too many different types of layouts, and that exacerbates what is already an unfamiliar and strange layout for recipes.  I think it's an interesting idea, but generally, it's too fussy for me, and particularly given that it's supposed to be especially simple.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: This is Camino by Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain

Camino, in Oakland, California, is one of the best restaurants I've ever been to.  Like many of the best restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, Camino is run by Chez Panisse alums.  Their food is, simply, perfect.  It is simple, beautiful, and delicious.  Their food may be simple, but it is innovative and perfectly balanced.  The restaurant itself is stunningly beautiful.  The food, decor, service--everything at Camino is deliberate, beautiful, and perfect.  This is Camino, the first book by Camino's owners, is just like everything else related to Camino.  It is a very sophisticated and beautifully designed cookbook.  In addition to many gorgeous photos of the restaurant itself, there are plenty of beautiful photos of the food that will leave your mouth watering.  The book begins with a chapter on "Basics," many of which are relatively sophisticated, and thus not so basic for the casual cook.  However, this is a thoughtful and well-written book, so everything is explained clearly.  Herb Jam and Preserved Lemons are basics??  Stick with this book, though, because these are the building blocks of food with amazing depth and complexity of flavor.  This is a very vegetarian friendly book, although about half of the book is about non-vegetarian dishes.  But the book, like the restaurant, offers unusually sophisticated and flavorful vegetarian food.  Camino takes vegetarian food very seriously, and one gets the feeling that they don't even think of it as vegetarian, so much as dishes that highlight the best of local and very fresh produce and eggs.  The book also includes recipes for the restaurant's wonderful drinks and desserts.  Check out this beautiful cookbook if you want to get a taste of the best of Bay Area cuisine.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

United States of Books: Entertainment Weekly Chooses the Book that Best Defines Each State, by Peter Oumanski

Friday, October 9, 2015

Plotted: A Literary Atlas by Andrew DeGraff

Plotted: A Literary Atlas is a beautiful book of maps by Andrew DeGraff of the imaginary places and timelines of various books.  DeGraff maps Homer's Odyssey, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Borges' Library of Babel, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and many more books.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Ebenezer Scrooge's movements in chapter 1

Two maps from Richard Adams' Watership Down

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Dedication Page from Eve Babitz' Memoir, Eve's Hollywood

Writer and 70s It Girl Eve Babitz' memoir of life in Los Angeles is soon to be reissued by New York Review of Books Classics.  I particularly like "And to Eggs Benedict at the Beverly Wilshire." and "And to sour cream."  Here is the book's amazing dedication page(s).

To Mae and Sol Babitz, mainly.

But also to Mirandi and Laurie living next to the sea.

And Diane Gardiner without whom fewer strange arrangements might pass uninstigated.

And to Earl McGrath to whom I admit I owe Everything.

And to the record company president of my choice, Ahmet Ertegun.

Plus any other Atlantic Record Executive who's ever taken me out to dinner, will again or has said, "Here, you do this album cover."

And to Annie Leibovitz and her trusty companion, Citizen Wenner, gathering moss to the North. And to Grover Lewis who dispels gloom with blue eyes in a blue town with blue rugs, Texanly. And Sara and Charlie and the girl with the coke.

And to Brian G. Hutton, always the Prince but not Mr. Right, thank heavens.

And to Carol Grannison-Killorhan, hostess of sanctuaries and goose cook.

And to the Hollywood bouncy agent of my choice, Mike Hamilburg, green eyes. And to the Boston publisher of my choice, Seymour Lawrence, a tough customer.

And to Ginny Ganahl, if you have to ask you'll never know.
And to the Beverly Hills Hotel.

And to Robert L. Marchese, my partner in Lawrence of Arabia exchanges. (A handsome devil.)

And to Marva, the best hair cutter on earth and, besides, she makes you look beautiful.

And to Rainier Ale.

And to Andy Warhol and Paul Morrisey who I'd do anything for if only they'd pay.

And to the Didion-Dunnes for having to be who I'm not.

And to Ned Doheney, postcards from hot Hollywood peacocks.

And to all the handsome devil artists especially Ron Cooper, the possessed, and Wudl and Larry Bell, the master of glass, and Billy Al Bengston to whom I apologize for putting a cigarette out on his white floor 10 years ago.

And Kenny Price. And Ed Ruscha, a man of simple tastes but no one makes those kind of wings, so he's stuck with a white Rolls and no wings.

And to Barney.

And to Derek Taylor. Tell them, Derek, how great I am. Like you once introduced me to a Beatle as "the best girl in America."

And to Robert and Harry Deutsch for their breathtaking dashes into the breech. And not Phyllis.

And to Marie, a friend indeed.

And to L. Rust Hills for the ice cream story and the one about taking sides and anagrams. That Esquire is falling apart. Mine is Babe Vizet.

And to Eggs Benedict at the Beverly Wilshire.

And to Ingolf Dahl, Clark House and other long agos. And to Marcel Duchamps who beat me at his own game.

And to Jim Morrison running guns on Rimbaud's footsteps.

And to Stephan Stills for "Everydays" and letting me do the art part.

And to the Sandabs at Musso's, the Eggplant Florentine, the guy who makes the pancakes and my friend in the parking lot (not the one on the ground, the one who parks your car, the young one). And to the crabpuffs at Don the Beachcomber's.
And to Joseph Heller, Speed Vogel and the guy who ran off with the baby sitter. And Milo Minderbinder's inspiration.
And to Anne Marshall, the beautiful friend to us all. And to Michelle Guilliane for calling first before bringing Kim Fawley into my house.

And to Kim Fawley for at least the $6.

And to Van Dyke Parks for anything he cares to take a bow for.

And to Simon Rodia.

And to the purple mountains' majesty above the fruited plain.

And to Linda Ronstadt for "Long, Long Time," earrings, Arizona and that voice, my God.

And to Glen Frey of the Eagles so he'll still talk to me. 

And to the New York Times book review section and every critic in it.

And to Chuck Berry, a brown eyed handsome man who knows what he likes even if it is astroturf and 21 TVs. And to Bo for telling us about the bed.

And to Sara Harrison, Noel Harrison, Simon Harrison, Harriette Harrison, Kathy Harrison, Zoe (my friend) Harrison, Margaret Harrison and the new twins.

And to Stuart Reed in whom I believe. And to Jackson Browne anyway.

And to Billy James who saved me.

And to Virginia Team as those who know her know. And to Aivars Perlback.

And to Pauline Kael who we discovered on KPFA one glorious day and whose sentences don't parse either. (He told me the same thing. I was shocked.)

And to the future good will of Consumer's Liquor, the best liquor store in America and aptly named.

And to the Chateau Marmont.

And to Joseph Cornell. A Real Artist.

And to tempura.

And to Camilla McGrath.

And to Terry Melcher, for Culver City Blues Again. And to Dickie Davis for loyalty in spite of the spill all over the floor of the Troubadour ladies' room.

And to Dr. Boyd Cooper, gynecologist extraordinaire.

And to Kate Steinitz who liked my collages before I could make them.

And to Jock, Michaela, Nini, Jacky, Brook the impossible and deviled marrow bones, watercress and cheese pie, anything vinaigrette and decent wine.

And to Mr. Major, I'm sorry I turned out this way. And to the land, the beach, the trees, the hills, the sky, the Bradbury Building, the Broadway Hollywood and all the flowers in spring.

And to Marc Foreman and Wilhelm Reich. 

And to freeways.

And to Dan, Mrs. Alcerro and the Valentino episode.

And to Orson Welles, the light of my life.

And to time immemorial and the suspension of disbelief.

And to Connie Freiberg, her crosses to bear made of angel hair but heavy on such burnt shoulders.

And to Michael and Sheila Rainey for Roman follies, curry and mean tricks.

And to Marcel Proust.

And to Sally Stevens.

And to "LUNCH Poems."

And to Sandy & John Gibson, kicked upstairs.

And to Fred Roos, another Sheik that could cast this movie and his silent dog, Rover.

And to Alan Sororti, our dieting assemblyman.

And to tea cakes, chocolate rabbits, Pupi's, Clifton's, and fried squash blossoms a la Ron Cooper.

And to David Anderle and Michael Monroe for upping the tone.

And to Michael McClure whose secrets are safe in Jean Harlow's head.

And, to Marshall Ephron for the first book and the mariachi Ubu.

And to Kuilli Anton, the most beautiful girl in Lake Arrowhead.

And to Bonnie Jean, The Fred C. Dobbs and psychedelic chili.

And to sour cream.

And to the Hawaii Theater of my youth. And to Les Noces.
And to Terry O'Shea and his magic wands that shine in the dark made of ivory and plastic emeralds who never should have told anyone.

And to Joyce Haber and her Francis Albert, a L.A. Saga.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

So, full disclosure: I am a big Mindy Kaling fan, so I was predisposed to love this book.  She is a hilarious and brilliant young woman who seems to wear her role model status lightly, in the sense that her feminism and advice come in a humorous form.  Her new book, Why Not Me?, is a book of humorous and touching essays that perfectly capture this quality of Kaling's refreshing brand of empowerment.  She is an excellent writer, and this book is even better than her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  Will all of Kaling's books have questions for titles?  There is something meaningful about this.  And her first two books certainly ask two questions I have thought often enough myself.  This is not a book making a single point, but truly a book of essays, along the lines of David Sedaris a bit.  She includes funny personal photos and lists alongside her lists, memories, and musings.  Some of the essays are made to look a bit like self-help or other kinds of manuals.  For instance, "Things to Bring to My Dinner Party" is basically a list of "hostess gifts," that include things like "a huge appetite" and "my mail from my mailbox."  I like the "essay" titled "Mindy Lahiri, MD, Everygirl, Mild Sociopath," in which she has a list of the things that her Mindy Project character, Mindy Lahiri, would do and Kaling would not, and another list of things they both do.  Essays like these are a bit thin, and feel like filler.  But they're still fun and illuminating (about Kaling).  Other essays, like "Unlikely Leading Lady" belie the silliness of these "filler" essays.  Here, she talks about her uneasy relationship to her body, and how it is exacerbated by being in Hollywood.  Overall, this is a wonderful book.  I think the combination of light, purely humorous essays, and deeper, more thoughtful ones, is appropriate to Kaling.  I haven't, unfortunately, gotten ahold of the audiobook, but I'm sure it's even better than the print version.  Although, that being said, the print version is beautiful, including a funny diagram of her heart on the back of the dust jacket, and adorable gold doodles on the end papers.  

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Modcloth Archive Got the Power Book Print Belted Dress