cover image Soup: A Way of Life

Soup: A Way of Life

Barbara Kafka. Artisan Publishers, $35 (464pp) ISBN 978-1-57965-125-1

Kafka (Roasting: A Simple Art; The James Beard Celebration Cookbook, ed.) is known for her strong opinions and thorough probing of her subjects, and this encyclopedia of soup lore and nearly 300 recipes follows that pattern. The recipes are terrific. Who could argue with hearty Winter Duck Soup, refreshing Simple Celery Soup, festive Tortilla Soup, elegant Cold Pea and Mint Puree with Shrimp or a Spicy Peanut Butter Soup that can be served hot or cold? Meal-in-a-pot soups such as Turkey Soup Meal with Swiss Chard are particularly promising. The organization, however, is eclectic and prevents the book from being a fully functional reference work. Kafka starts off with soups that have been important to her family members and then divides them roughly by ingredients (e.g., poultry, fish, vegetables). But since most soup recipes blur these boundaries, the divisions are confusing. Sour Cherry Soup ends up stuck in a chapter on vegetable soups (subdivided into hot and cold), and Japanese Shabu Shabu lands in the meat chapter, although it contains plenty of vegetables. A section on stocks features five different chicken stocks alone, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Chicken Stock, which is recommended for only one recipe. The chapter on noodles, dumplings and other additions to soup is wonderful, and Kafka's humor is enjoyably sly (a segment on using nonreactive cookware is labeled ""Pot and Acid""). With this much choice to page through, ranging from Garlic Broth to Stewed Eels Comacchio Style, readers will most often agree that, in this case, the path to the treasure is also the treasure. 60,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC/ Good Cook main selection; 10-city author tour. (Nov.)