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FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST BY PATRIC KUH

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FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST BY PATRIC KUH

FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST BY PATRIC KUH IS A FOOD AND TRAVEL BOOK, BUT NOT IN THE CONVENTIONAL SENSE.

KUH, THE LEAD RESTAURANT CRITIC FOR L.A. MAGAZINE, WHO HAS WRITTEN ARTICLES FOR GOURMET, ESQUIRE, FOOD & WINE, AND SALON, IS THE AUTHOR OF THE LAST DAYS OF HAUTE CUISINE, A HISTORY OF FRENCH RESTAURANTS IN N.Y.C. FROM LE PAVILLON TO THE FOUR SEASONS. KUH HAS BOTH A SCHOLARLY AS WELL AS A HANDS-ON KNOWLEDGE OF FOOD, HAVING WORKED AT GUY SAVOY IN PARIS AND CITRUS IN L.A.

FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST POSTULATES THAT STARTING IN THE THIRTIES, AMERICAN FOOD BECAME SO INDUSTRIALIZED AND HOMOGENIZED, THAT FLAVOR AND CRAFT WASSACRIFICEDFORPRACTICALITYANDPROFIT. BUTTHE POLITICAL AND SOCIAL REVOLUTIONS OF THE SEVENTIES GAVE BIRTH A CROP OF YOUNG ARTISANS OF EVERY STRIPE AND IT IS THIS MOVEMENT THAT HAS BROUGHT TASTE AND MEANING TO PRESENT-DAYFOODPRODUCTION. THEWORD“ARTISANAL”HAS BECOME PART OF THE MODERN FOOD LEXICON.

TO DO SO, THESE YOUNG BAKERS, CHEESE MAKERS, DISTILLERS, BEER CRAFTERS, AND FARMERS REACHED INTO THE PAST, SOMETIMES THE DISTANT PAST (BEER WAS FIRST MENTIONED IN CUNEIFORM TEXTS IN MESOPOTAMIA) FOR THE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE OVERLOOKED IN MODERN FOOD PRODUCTION. THEY TRAVELLED TO FRANCE TO LEARN BREAD MAKING; TO GERMANY AND GREAT BRITAIN FOR BEER; TO ITALY, NORMANDY AND THE HAUTE SAVOIE FOR CHEESE. NANCY SILVERTON STUDIED AT THE LENȎTRE BAKING SCHOOL IN PARIS.

KUH DEVOTES AN ENTIRE CHAPTER DESCRIBING HOW SILVERTON, WORKING ALONE IN A WAREHOUSE IN CULVER CITY, MOSTLY BY TRIAL AND ERROR, DEVELOPED THE BREADS WHICH BECAME LA BREA BAKERY, A HERCULEAN FEAT THAT ESTABLISHED A NEW GOLD STANDARD FOR BREAD IN L.A., WHERE GOOD BREAD WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. THE YEAR WAS
1 988.

HE GIVES EQUAL PAGE SPACE TO ZINGERMAN’S, THE DELICATESSEN PAUL SAGINAW AND ARI WEINZWEIG OPENED IN ANN ARBOR IN 1982. THEIR NOW-FAMOUS CATALOGUE INTRODUCED HIGH-QUALITY ARTISANAL PRODUCTS, BOTH IMPORTED AND DOMESTIC, EVERYTHING FROM ANCHOVIES TO OLIVE OILS, TO CUSTOMERS WHO HAD NEVER TASTED SUCH THINGS BEFORE.

KUH TOURS THE BOURBON DISTILLERIES OF KENTUCKY, DESCRIBING IN LUCID DETAIL BOTH THE HISTORY OF THIS CRAFT

AND ITS MODERN PRACTITIONERS. OUTSIDE OF DODGEVILLE, WISCONSIN, HE VISITS UPLANDS CHEESE. SAMPLING THE PLEASANT RIDGE RESERVE, HE WRITES, “I CAN’T CUT A SLICE WITHOUT WANTING TO BURY MY NOSE IN IT. THE TASTE: BUTTERY, TOASTY, NUTTY…WHENEVER I TRY TO DEFINE IT, MY MIND SHIFTS FROM ADJECTIVES TO VERBS…LIKE PASTURE, IT’S STILL A LITTLE WILD AND UNTENDED.”

WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SUCH A PLEASURE TO READ IS THE PALPABLE PLEASURE THAT KUH EXPERIENCES WHETHER HE’S SIPPING A TUMBLER OF SINGLE CASK BOURBON OR A HOPPY I.P.A. AT BROOKLYN BREWERY; BITING INTO THE CRUST OF A BOULE FROM TARTINE IN SAN FRANCISCO OR A BA-TAMPTE GARLIC PICKLE IN BROOKLYN.

IN FACT, HE DEVOTES AN ENTIRE CHAPTER TO WILLIAMSBURG, WHICH HAS EVOLVED INTO THE VITAL CENTER OF AMERICA’S ARTISANAL FOOD MOVEMENT, ECLIPSING BERKELEY, WHERE ALICE WATERS LED THE CHARGE IN THE 80S.

WHEN I THINK OF WHAT A GASTRONOMIC DESERT L.A. WAS WHEN WE MOVED HERE FROM NEW YORK IN 1975 AND WATCHED IT GROW INTO ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING FOOD CITIES IN THE WORLD, I CAN SEE THE IMPACT OF CHEFS LIKE NANCY SILVERTON AND JEAN-LOUIS PALLADIN, WHOSE WATERGATE RESTAURANT IN WASHINGTON PIONEERED THE SOURCING OF LOCAL INGREDIENTS. LOCAVORISM IS ANOTHER OUTGROWTH OF THE ARTISANAL MOVEMENT. SHOW ME A MENU WHICH DOESN’T TRUMPET THE SOURCE OF IT’S INGREDIENTS.

RANGING A BIT FARTHER AFIELD, KUH EXPLORES THE COMPROMISES ARTISANS MAKE WHEN SUCCESS TEMPTS THEM TO GROW BIGGER, GROWTH BEING ANTITHETICAL TO THE VERY NOTION OF CRAFTSMANSHIP. ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM OF FOOD WASTE IN THIS COUNTRY, KUH HONORS FOOD FORWARD, AN ORGANIZATION WHICH PICKS BACKYARD FRUIT TREES AND COLLECTS EXCESS PRODUCE TO DISTRIBUTE TO THE POOR. KUH DOES HIS HOMEWORK AND HIS HISTORIES OF THE BOURBON INDUSTRY, THE INVENTION OF BAKING SODA AND THE IMPACT OF PASTEURIZATION ARE FASCINATING AND ILLUMINATING.

KUH HAS GENUINE ADMIRATION FOR THE HARD WORK AND OBSESSION WITH DETAIL WHICH THESE ARTISANS DEVOTE TO THEIR CRAFT. BUT HE ALSO UNDERSTANDS HOW GRATIFYING SUCH WORK CAN BE; HOW QUALITY WORKMANSHIP IS, LIKE A MEDITATION, AN END IN ITSELF. FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST IS ITSELF AN EXPRESSION OF PATRIC KUH’S HARD WORK AND TO THE CRAFT OF WRITING, WHICH VIVIDLY AND SENSUALLY

EVOKES THE TASTES CREATED BY THE ARTISANS HE CELEBRATES IN THIS GRATIFYING BOOK.

FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST (FROM BREAD TO BOURBON, HOW ARTISANS RECLAIMED AMERICAN FOOD) HARPER COLLINS, 2016.

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One Comment → “FINDING THE FLAVORS WE LOST BY PATRIC KUH”

  1. I’m flattered. Thank you for such a perceptive reading.

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