I don’t usually do book reviews here. Obviously, I love books, especially of the how-to variety as they help me out on the farm making cheese or kraut or beekeeping. While I love novels and literary non-fiction (except for the sacred few) I find that I lend those out or give them away. But I keep the how-to books. They’re for reference of course, and they are books to use when I teach classes or when I have an open house and I want to invite people to see the books firsthand. Often visitors will have some of the same books (Wild Fermentation, Encyclopedia of Country Living) on their bookshelves and we’ll laugh about our crazed how-to gurus.
There’s a new book out by a crazed how-to guru that I was so pleased to find at Green Apple books the other night. Bill and I had gone to San Francisco for an evening out which involves going to Rainbow to buy olive oil when they’re open, spend a few hours doing something else, and returning to Rainbow when their mighty-fine dumpster gets put out and can be perused.
So there we were, wasting time at Green Apple and I see this book, called Tartine Bread. I read the first paragraph and knew I had to buy the book, even though it is not in my budget ($40). The rest of the night we went diving, then got home tired and dirty. The next day was so hot, I just sat around and read Tartine Bread instead of going outside. I found myself completely blown away how lovely the book is, how measured, how perfectly the book captures the essence of what matters right now with people today. It took my breath away; and I realized, this is probably what happened when my mom read the Moosewood Cookbook or Diet for a Small Planet. The book captured what is important to me, the author finds what I find beautiful, he crafts and cares and loves. He’s–yes–speaking for my generation.
His name is Chad Robertson, and his careful prose paints a portrait of a man obsessed with craft and doing one thing very very well. From what I’ve heard of him, this is all true–by all accounts, he is a humble craftsperson. There are also perfect photos which show you how to make the Tartine loaves which so many people in SF gladly wait in line for. The secret is a series of steps–coaxing a wild yeast to become your friend and live in a jar of flour and water; making a sticky wet dough that you don’t really knead, but turn instead; cooking the dough in a cast iron pan with a lid–to make a big, unique crusty loaf.
Now, I just got the book, I haven’t started to make my wild yeast friend yet, but I will. I had originally thought I would make the bread in my cob oven, but Chad insists that wood fired ovens aren’t necessary (I’m still going to try…) I have made a recipe from the other part of the book, which details how to make bready-recipes like roasted tomatoes, Bahn mi, and a dino kale caesar with croutons. Since I have a million dino kale plants in the garden, I busted that out last night (using the far less superior bread from Brioche Bakery to make the croutons). Lordy, it was divine.
So, there’s my first book review. The end.