Outlaw Cook

John Thorne, Author, Matt Lewis Thorne, With
John Thorne, Author, Matt Lewis Thorne, With Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-374-22836-1
Paperback - 378 pages - 978-0-86547-479-6
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``I think you don't have to be a good cook . . . to be an interested cook,'' opines John Thorne ( Simple Cooking ) in this enlightening collection of essays, which illustrate, through their range and idiosyncrasy, exactly the sweep of that ``interested'' cook. Composed primarily of selections from the newsletter Simple Cooking , which Thorne writes with his wife, Matt, the book offers a series of extended comments on foods that interest him for their simple perfection, like avocados, for their relation to a national people, like boeuf aux carottes to the French during WW II, or for their place in his personal history (the metaphysics of bread, and its baking, led him to build his own outdoor wood-fired bread oven). The thoughtful selection of recipes includes Spanish meatball soup, ``plowman's lunch'' and fresh raspberry cake, reflecting the bent of an erudite, self-made cook. As in other collections of short, previously published works, the voice and pace of the essays may wane on repetition. But in moderate spells, the essays delight with passion and originality. This is one of few recent books that can successfully encompass the history of the recent enshrinement of pesto, an analysis of Martha Stewart's need to be loved and a culinary awakening caused by Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum. (Nov.)
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