The Week in Books 2008, No. 24

Chez Panisse Vegetables
is more than just a cookbook, it is a detailed account of various vegetables, how to select and handle them, the best ways to prepare them, and then recipes for using them. Chez Panisse is a restaurant in Berkeley devoted to using only fresh, local ingredients, so the book is arranged around what may be found in markets at different times. I thought it was tremendously informative and fun to read, and found several recipes to try. Of the few I’ve made so far, I’ve been impressed with the simplicity of the recipe considering the sophisticated taste it produces. I’d highly recommend this cookbook if you are interested in eating seasonally or shop farmer’s markets or prepare vegetables in the course of your cooking.

In The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with Our Favorite Treats Joanne Chen delves into how and why we taste things, primarily sweet things. Like other books from the “food narrative” genre, along the way Chen presents all kinds of related and fascinating bits of history, science, sociology, and culture. She discusses “tasters” and “non-tasters” (two categories that have nothing to do with your palate but which are matters of fierce secrecy, because, surprisingly, MANY eminent chefs, someliers, and food critics are actually non-tasters!), debunks the myth of the “sophisticated palate” and explores how tastes change over time. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m addicted to this genre of books. If you know of any others I should read, please let me know!

I believe I’ve found a new author whose canon I shall have to explore more fully. I can’t remember who told me about Anya Seton, but I read her book The Mistletoe and Sword: A Story of Roman Britain and found it to be a fast, entertaining read, with lots of good adventure and so unobjectionable I would think even a pre-teen could read it (content-wise anyway). Although I think Bernard Cornwell’s historical Britain stories are better, Seton did a good job of evoking the history and feeling of the time period, and keeps the story moving at a good pace.

In the interests of making a complaint sandwich, I will say that Heartfelt Discipline: The Gentle Art of Training and Guiding Your Child contains some good points about being sympathetic to our children, taking time to figure out what’s really wrong without jumping to conclusions, and emphasizing the importance of gentleness and understanding in dealing with little ones. However, I thought some of Clay Clarkson’s exegesis was strained, as it seemed he had made up his mind what he was comfortable with, and then went to find Scripture to back up his conclusions. I thought he set up a false dichotomy between discipline options, which does the reader a disservice, especially if you haven’t read many other books on Biblical modes of parenting. For the other piece of bread in my sandwich, I found his thoughts on using narration with Bible stories interesting in light of some of the reading I’ve been doing about that method of teaching/learning.

Overall, I would say Don’t Make Me Count to Three: a Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline by Ginger Plowman is a better book than “Heartfelt Discipline” because Plowman has a more balanced approach (at least in my opinion).

I listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio sometimes if I happen to be in the car while his show is on, and I’ve read another of his books in the past, but I found Financial Peace Revisited to be entertaining and informative. This book is a little different from the ones that focus mostly on the baby steps, it has a different approach that would be useful even if you’re familiar with his other material.

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