Friday, September 14, 2007

Art in the Kitchen

I just recently finished reading Adam D. Roberts’ The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost). Adam’s mission in life is to get everyone to put down the frozen pizza and learn to savor the experience of making your own spaghetti sauce. I can’t claim to be a “foodie” myself, but I married one and have made great strides in the kitchen and when ordering at a restaurant since Annie came into my life (just some of the many, many substantial upgrades she’s introduced). The Amateur Gourmet brings an art appreciation sensibility to the kitchen and the table. With great humor and sensitivity, Adam shows you how the food you eat really is a quality of life issue—the better you eat the better your life will be. He redefines comfort food—breaking free from the mashed potatoes of doubt and insecurity and flying ahead to the braised leg of lamb of independence and adventure. (My metaphor, not his.) Borders just recently picked him as one of their best Original Voices for September, so you have no excuse not to pick up this book and a spatula (in that order).

You’ll find Adam’s writing to be entertaining and informative, like a friend talking you through chopping onions over the phone (something he actually does in the book). I especially loved the chapter on dining alone—part memoir and part pep talk for the single diner. I happened to be reading The Amateur Gourmet at the same time I was reading the catalogue for the new Edward Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and tried to imagine that lonely lady in Hopper’s Automat as less lonely and actually enjoying her dessert.

Adam began his career as The Amateur Gourmet in 2004 with his blog, an endless source of information and entertainment. Hearing how he shook off the chains of a lifeless legal career and followed his bliss into a whole new culinary adventure is encouraging. It’s tempting to say that he’s lost his amateur status now that he’s hit the big time, but I like to think of “amateur” as a badge of honor rather than a putdown. Just like all the great amateur political journalists that ask all the questions and carry all the opinions the mainstream, dead-tree world of media won’t, I want to believe that the passionate, gifted amateur can offer something that the jaded pros no longer can. Someday, I hope to be counted in that “gifted amateur” category , too.

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