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London Review of Books Looks at “Heat”
Friday, August 11, 2006 | posted by Mike

Heat by Bill BufordThe London Review of Books has a great in-depth look at Bill Buford’s Heat. Written by Steven Shapin, the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard, the article reviews Heat through the lens of the historical role of food (from Aristotle’s beliefs on diet to European royalty to the commercialization of food in the 20th century), and spends a bit of time on today’s celebrity food culture.

I should probably take a step back…I’m not sure how many of you have come across Heat, but it’s written by the former fiction editor for the New Yorker, Bill Buford, and it tells his story of becoming a “kitchen slave” to Mario Batali in order to learn what it really takes to become a chef. I would have more to say about the book, and I do plan on giving it more attention later, but I haven’t managed to find time to read it. (Just being honest)

The review, though, is a good read in its own right. Shapin makes mention of a number of high profile TV chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. He sees their rise to fame as a result of larger trend, the culinary renaissance that has taken place over the past few years. I think he makes an excellent point when he draws on the history of cooking to show that the current trend is, in part, the result of greater equality in the workplace and the fact that many more men are cooking in the home these days. “And when men began to do the cooking it became worth thinking about and very much worth talking about.”

As I said, it’s an interesting read…and don’t skip it just because it may have a bit of an “academic” tone to it. The author still takes the time to rip Emeril Lagasse for his “immense quantities of garlic, pork fat and his proprietary Cajun seasoning powder, Emeril’s Original Essence™: $3.59 for three ounces.”



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