Pass the Polenta: And Other Writings from the Kitchen, with Recipes

Teresa Lust, Author
Teresa Lust, Author Steerforth Press $24 (269p) ISBN 978-1-883642-95-2
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-58642-142-7
Hardcover - 270 pages - 978-1-883642-75-4
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These essays on the pleasures of simple food are uniformly charming, but it is that very uniformity that sabotages the collection. Over and over again, Lust, a former restaurant chef, uses folksy character sketches to prove that old ways and peasant food outdo fussy techniques and nouvelle cuisine. In ""Easy as Pie"" it's Lust's grandmother who instructs her on making a pie crust that beats out the pate brisee of French-trained pastry chefs. In ""The Same Old Stuffing,"" she berates food magazine editors who promote ""the smoked quail, the spicy black bean stuffing, and the sun-dried tomato and arugula gratin"" for Thanksgiving and waxes nostalgic about the two types of stuffing (one with sage and onion and another with sausage, spinach, raisins, and nuts) served on her family's holiday table. ""Daily Grind"" compares the coffee that emerges from the ancient stovetop coffeemaker of Lust's Italian aunt to the sad brews sold under Italian jargon in American coffee bars. While these observations are undoubtedly true, they are repetitious and often verge on cliche. Recipes for homey dishes (sauerkraut, scones) are explained in their essays, and then written out more formally at the end of the book. Like the essays, these dishes are familiar yet satisfying. (Sept.)
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