Category Archives: Book review

Cookbook Ghostwriters

The New York Times’ Diner’s Journal article, “I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter,” written by Julia Moskin, has created controversy, as it claims that some chefs were not solo authors of their cookbooks.  Rachael Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow are on the defensive.

First, do I believe that many chefs have ghostwriters?  Yes, I do.  They are chefs, not writers.  Writing is a skill just as much as cooking is.  In today’s world, people do not want to acknowledge nor pay writers for the work they do.  And writing is work.

After I read the article, I had respect for Bobby Flay for admitting he used a collaborator and for respecting writers as having a craft, or skill, that he doesn’t have.  I also think many chefs do not have time to write their own book.  I don’t see anything wrong with admitting, like Flay, that you hired a professional writer to do the writing.  How is that different from hiring a professional food stylist to style the food, or professional editor to edit the book, or professional photographer to photograph the pictures in the book?  I fail to see the difference.  I, for one, would respect a chef more for collaborating with and giving writing credit to an author who helps him write his book.  A ghostwriter, however, is different from a collaborator.  A collaborator implies acknowledgement.  The very name “ghostwriter” means that the writer is a “ghost” or unseen.

Now, it’s one thing to hire a writer to write your book, and another thing altogether to hire one to create your recipes.  A chef shouldn’t need someone to do that.  I can see someone in Rachael Ray’s or Martha Stewart’s position having staff who create recipes in her style.  They have TV shows, magazines and books, and there is no way they can do all that work alone.  In my opinion, it doesn’t detract from their credibility nor my interest in them.  Now, I would be disappointed to find out that a chef with his own restaurants would have a book with recipes created by someone else.  A chef is someone who perfects his craft, much like a professional writer does, and his craft is creating in the kitchen.  I want his authenticity. 

I’m not sure how Gwyneth Paltrow gets into the conversation.  She’s neither a professional writer nor chef.  Do I believe Gwyneth Paltrow wrote her own book, My Father’s Daughter?  I believe she thinks she is a professional writer and chef.  Therefore, I believe she wrote her book, or at the very least, the title, because she is her father’s daughter.


Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival

Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival by June Feiss Hersh is a collection of recipes from those who experienced the Holocaust.  The recipes span the globe from survivors in Greece to Cuba.  Dr. Ruth Westheimer is featured in the book.  The book, which was published by Ruder Finn Press in association with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, goes on sale this Sunday.

I Made Sushi

I made sushi at a New York City Bar Association function tonight.  It was a fun event and a good way to meet people.  It was also a good cause as the event also raised money to help Japan.  The hard part was done for us, as there was a big bowl of sushi rice on the table already and the fish and veggies were precut for us as well. 

All we had to do was put the nori down, pat down the rice after dipping our fingers in water,

lay the fish and veggies down evenly,

and make the roll.  Up, over and under.  Far from perfect, the rolls were fun to make.  It’s definitely made me want to experiment more with sushi.  Luckily, a woman from Japan happened to be at our table, and she told us that the Japanese do not make sushi at home–that they go out to eat sushi and they do not eat rolls.  In addition to sushi, there was a representative from Suntory there with some Hibiki and Yamazaki whiskeys for us to try.  My favorite was the Yamazaki aged 18 years as it had smoky notes to me. 

In keeping with the Japanese theme, currently I’m reading the book Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat:  Secrets of My Mother’s Tokyo Kitchen by Naomi Moriyama.  So far, sushi isn’t mentioned, but eating lots of vegetables is.  I’m learning a lot from the book, but I don’t think I could ever eat the Japanese way because I love carbs and dairy too much.  I do, however, think incorporating more fish and vegetables into one’s diet can only be a good thing.

When I visited Iceland, I toured a gravesite and the markers showed people living well into their 90s.  In Japan and Italy, people are known to live long.  Interestingly, these three countries are islands and peninsulas, isolated places, but they all have a high fish diet.  Vegetables are a large part of a Japanese and Italian diet, but not an Icelandic diet.  (I also thought Iceland was one of the least stressful places I’ve ever been, which may account for a lot.)

Anyway, pictures to follow of my great sushi soon.

NYU Has the Largest Collection of Food Books in America

With 55,000 books in its library, NYU, my alma mater, has the largest collection of food books in the United States.  Fales Library on the third floor of the Bobst Library houses special collections and recently amassed 21,000 food books from the private collection of restaurateur George Lang.  In 2003, the director of the food studies program at NYU started the collection of food books.  The first donation, consisting of 7,000 books, was that of Associated Press food editor Cecily Brownstone.  Since then, they have received many donations, including the complete set of Gourmet magazines, all 3,500 of them.  This collection definitely puts NYU’s food studies program on the map, and helps to show the importance of the topic that had, in the past, endured a negative stigma as “women’s work.”

Modernist Cuisine Pics

The New York Times printed some pics from the Modernist Cuisine set.

A World of Cake by Krystina Castella

OK, I definitely have to get A World of Cake by Krystina Castella because I love cake and I love trying foods from different cultures.  I love the pictures on the front cover and can’t wait to take a cake trip around the world!

Modernist Cuisine Arrives

The cookbook on molecular gastronomy that I wrote about here back in Nov. of 2009 is finally available.  The only catch is its hefty price tag at over $600.  Modernist Cuisine, written by Nathan Myhrvold who is the former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, consists of six volumes and reaches almost 2500 pages.  With my interest in intellectual property, I find Myhrvold fascinating as he is an inventor that certainly helps keep lawyers in business with his hand in many patents.  I think the restaurant El Bulli in Spain made famous the foods of molecular gastronomy, a term coined by French chemist Herve This.  In New York, a restaurant to try that achieves success with it is wd-50, which I recently visited and will write about.  The book looks like it has phenomenal full-color photos of food science in action, and it also gives tips on how to try this at home.