"Heat",an account of apprenticeship to Master Chef, Mario Batali, starts out reporting life in the kitchen at Babbo's, Mario's three star Italian restaurant in New York, and ends tracing down 15th century recipes in Italy. Along the way, Buford profiles Batali and his transformation into "Molto Mario, a television personality,while describing Buford's own experiences working up the ladder from kitchen slave to line cook.
The most fascinating chapters center on pasta-making. Buford revels in making pasta and the myriad of forms this food takes. He divides it into "innies and outies" according to whether the food goes inside or outside. Innies include "lune" round circles shaped as moons and "mezzalune" half-moons. Other forms include "tortellini", little tarts, containers of dough that look like navals, and "orecchietti", little ears, along with "linguini", little tongues, and "tagliatelli", little cut things. Tortellini, cooked in chicken broth, requires tiny hands to fold in the filling made of chicken, sausage, pork and parmesan cheese. In his quest to find the original pasta,Buford makes many trips to Italy, following Mario's footsteps, where he apprentices himself to Betta and other matriachs in Tuscany and Balogna. He learns to roll out the dough "wood on wood",until it is transparent. He tells the secret of cooking pasta in a restaurant. "Save the water" which becomes richer and richer as he night progresses ,lending flavor and body to the dough.
He traces the history of the recipe,flour and water,enriched by the addition of one egg yolk sometime in the 17th century. He describes hand kneading the dough and rolling it out on a board four feet across.
Othe recipes in the book include making polenta , allowing it to bubble for three hours until it expands to six times its original volume. He explaines ragu, neither solid nor liquid, made from two meats , veal and beef or capon and three liquids tomatoes, wine and broth. I liked his recipe for beef ribs where he describes cooking the meat until fork tender in kitchen vernacular.
Buford says simplicity means "easy to do", but when a chef uses the word it takes a lifetime to learn. Cooking is transformation and a chef knows the joy of making food.
Buford transcribes both the exuberance and the agony of the restaurant kitchen to the reader and has created a rich ragu of recipes and personalities. Both cook or consumer will enjoy the book which would benefit from an index to help find recipes easily.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson