Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FARMfood: Green living with chef Daniel Orr: A review

FARMfood is the type of book that makes me want it to be summer again.

A rainbow of colors and seasons pictured within the pages may be enough for some people. But reading the descriptions of the recipes and his stories of food make all the difference in this cookbook.

A good chef should have a love affair with food. While many cookbook authors, if they provide any background into a recipe at all, mention where they picked up an altered a recipe abroad or offering a substition, renowed chef Daniel Orr details the little things. Like how to get around the fact that "turkey burgers tend to satisfy the soul less." Or how to convert portobello mushrooms into "beer food." Or how to best cook a dish in a particular marinade. Or how a cultural lesson was learned while cooking:

This soup is one that I came up with while at CuisinArt in Anguilla. The
Anguillans eat hot soup all year round. I tried getting them to taste some of my
cold soups, but without success. I thought chilled soup would be a refreshing
tonic for the heat, but I was schooled by one old lady who said the hotter the
soup, the cooler you'll be. In the Carribean, squash and pumpkins are used all
year long, not just during the fall, when we think of using them. So this soup
can be served all year round. And for the record, it's not bad cold either.

The recipes range from curious ingredients (cattails, dandelions, wild garlic and smelts) to exciting dishes that are simple enough for a working mom to recreate. I was able to try several recipes with items on hand and was able to confidently juggle the preparation. I will say, that some very basic cooking skills are required. Orr does not stoop to tell you what temperatures oils should be heated in a pan, for example.

What's great about this book is he not only sells you on the ingredients, he shares his love of them and their secrets: from scavenging and growing to how to prepare according to the time of year. And Midwesterners should not shy away from this: Orr shares tips from mushrooming in Indiana to where to find locally produced foods ranging from White Pekin duck to elk. (Want other tips? Check out his podcast.) It's a welcome addition to any food lover's bookshelf.

In full disclosure, I did receive a review copy from Indiana University Press. But you probably knew that.

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