If Irma S. Rombauer hadn’t used the phrase more than 70 years ago, the ideal title for this engaging little volume—half cookbook, half culinary sermon—might have been “The Joy of Cooking.” Ken Albala (a writer and history professor specializing in culinary matters) and Rosanna Nafziger (a Mennonite farm girl turned chef and editor) share a genuine love for the act of cooking itself, as well as the results. “It’s time to take back the kitchen,” they declare, “time to unlock the pantry, to venture once again into our cellars and storehouses, and break free from the golden shackles of convenient, ready-made, industrial food.
” Time is the key word. Almost all the recipes on offer here, from pickles to pastry, are doable in the humblest of kitchens, but they require extra time. To take two extreme examples: the three-to-four-week fermentation period for homemade sauerkraut and the seven-day start-up process for sourdough bread. But what you spend in time you may save on equipment. Two or three good knives, some cast-iron skillets and a few other items—leave the Cuisinart unplugged—are all it takes to turn out most of the “traditional food” recipes contained in this winningly contrarian volume. One of the most appealing: a medieval pork pie that is “much more interesting” than its latter-day incarnations. Dried fruit—”prunes, figs, or even apricots chopped into small pieces”—add “immeasurable depth and texture to the filling,” the authors write.
A question looms over this book, though. How many of us are really interested in baking our daily bread daily? “The Lost Art of Real Cooking” is best for that rainy weekend or vacation lull when lengthy meal-preparation and a brief but satisfying dinner-table pay-off actually sound like fun.
Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal