Friday Reads: Roots & Meat

Two exceptional food authors are coming to town for the Chef’s Collaborative National Sustainable Food Summit, each armed with an extraordinary new (and hefty) book from the far ends of the food spectrum. I am deeply engrossed in both this week.

Diane Morgan, a prolific food writer with more than 17 books to her name, comes to town to promote Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes (Chronicle Books). Rutabagas, parsnips and carrots never looked so sexy, thanks to the photography of Antonis Achilleos. Diane’s research is exhaustive, the prose compelling and the whole book endlessly educational. Sure, we all know about potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets, but honestly, I didn’t know water chestnuts were a root, nor have I ever gave much thought to the possibilities of yuca or taro. (She includes a chapter on salsify, which readers of The Sharper Your Knife may remember as one of the required items in my final exam from Le Cordon Bleu; I’d never heard of it until that test.) The bulk of the 225 recipes are vegetarian friendly, an approach that I assume allows the roots to be the star, rather than the supporting player, as they tend to be relegated in their normal lives. The other massive book on my kitchen counter is The Great Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. You might recognize Bruce from the packages of his sausages sold across the country. He’s a guy who knows his meat (no lewd context intended), and it shows in the pages of this exceptional book. When I’ve interviewed home cooks, one thing they frequently comment is that meat can be a mystery. So many cuts, so much lingo and, honestly, so much money. Many home cooks tend to stay within their comfort zone, unclear of whether they can grill certain cuts, or if they need braising. Fear not, Bruce explains all of this for you and then goes on to share more on the subject with strong visuals including loads of excellent charts, at-a-glance guides and charts  than you may ever need, but it’s there if you do.  He also addresses subjects relevant to modern issues for omnivores, tackling issues around sustainable farming, buying local, humanely raised cattle and so on.

Both will be signing books with me at the author’s event for the Chef’s Collaborative Summit, but alas, you need a ticket to gain entry. For those who’d like to meet these two amazing authors, they’re both doing events in Seattle next week. Bruce will be leading an ultra cool butchery lesson at Rain Shadow Meats on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 2nd. If you have any interest in meat or butchery, go to this event. It’s a rare chance for a small-scale event with someone so knowledgeable and to be able to ask questions up close and personal, plus there’s a hearty buffet of all the class results included. The event is $80 and includes a copy of the book.


Both are doing events at The Book Larder in Seattle. Diane will be doing her event on Tuesday, October 2nd and Bruce will be at the store on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd. Both events start at 6:30 and include a nominal entrance fee that includes food bites and beverages. Not in Seattle? Both are doing a national tour for their titles. Diane has her events listed here. You can keep up with Bruce’s tour plans on his Facebook page.

For dinner, I’m combining both books. I’m braising flank steaks, but making a side butter-roasted rutabagas. I wouldn’t want to be accused of playing favorites.


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