Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is the best cookbook I’ve read since The James Beard Cookbook by the eponymous author (1959) and I read that in 1970, back when I was a new bride. Beard’s cookbook was, to me, a gigantic compendium of advice and techniques – an encyclopedia of sorts – and I used the heck out of it. Other similar books have been published in the half-century since. And I do enjoy reading cookbooks.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat By Samin Nosrat – 2017 / 619 pages Read by the author 5h 57m (256 pages – 1st half or so) * both read and listened to the 1st half
Mostly, until I got married, I cooked like my mother did (Norwegian-based) and after that it was somewhat like my mother-in-law (Irish). But because I was really on my own to figure out how to cook, I also learned to scour cookbooks and actually started collecting them. But James Beard was my standard; his books taught me stuff like how to bake a potato which is not a recipe but a matter of method based on principles.
Nazrat’s book is like that as it tells the reader/cook how to work with the basics in a real life kitchen. The pages are not just full of recipes or the epicurean cuisine of some famous chef. This book is for everyone who stirs a pot of soup on their old kitchen stove and wonders how it could be made tastier or what would best go with it. This book contains the information gained via experience and intuition which lies behind the recipes. So it’s about methods and rationale and is, in reality, a comprehensive overview of ideas and principles combining science with senses, intuition, memoir (Nazrat’s hands-on experience) and of course, the appearance, smell, sound, texture and taste of good food cooking.
It’s beautifully written, describing the sensory elements of food:
“Salt should taste clean, free of any unpleasant flavors. Start by tasting it all on its own. Dip your finger into your salt cellar and let a few gains dissolve on your tongue. What do they taste like? Hopefully like the summer sea.”
I think maybe the best part is how insistently usable this book is. I was stirring some celery and onions in butter the other evening and remembered what Nazrat had said about it. I remembered the admonition about salt. When cooking meat I think I should have remembered that slow cooking is not for every piece of pork – lol. I won’t forget that again. The point is to think like a chef.
I’m giving this book as a gift to a couple people, people who are interested in cooking the way I am – it’s that good.