When Daniel Duane became a father, this San Francisco surfer and climber found himself trapped at home with no clue how to contribute. Inept at so many domestic tasks, and less than eager to change diapers, he took on dinner duty. Duane had a few tricks: pasta, stir-fry...well, actually, those were his only two tricks. But he had a biographical anomaly: Chef Alice Waters had been his preschool teacher. So he cracked one of her Chez Panisse cookbooks and cooked his way through it. And so it went with all seven of her other cookbooks, then on to those of other famous chefs - thousands of recipes in all, amounting to an epic eight-year cooking journey.
Butchering whole lambs at home, teaching himself to make classic veal stock, even hunting pigs in Maui and fishing for salmon in Alaska, Duane so thoroughly immersed himself in the modern food world that he met and cooked with a striking number of his heroes: writing a book with Alice Waters; learning offal cookery hands-on from the great Fergus Henderson; even finagling seven straight hours of one-on-one private lessons from the chef he admires above all others, Thomas Keller.
Duane’s inimitable voice carries us through, with humor and panache, even through a pair of personal tragedies. Here is a writer who can make chopping an onion sound fun and fascinating. But there is more at stake in his wonderful memoir: In the end, Duane learns not just how to cook like a man, but how to be one.
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Not Like a Man but like a dramatic selfish man
This book is the best of food writing and the worst of being a man. The title should not include How to Cook Like a Man but should include A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession. The author takes you on a wild ride of his inadequacies and obsessions as a husband, a father, and a would-be chef (cook) as he cooks his way through cookbooks from Alice Waters to Thomas Keller. What I love about the book is the way Duane talks about food and cooking. He has the opportunity to cook and learn from some of the greatest chef's in the world. The food that he cooks for his family sounds amazing and if you are a foodie, a gourmand, or just a home cook with a passion, Duane's cooking adventures are exciting and full of wonderful recipes. Every cookbook he describes, that I do not already have, I want!
The problem for me is the main title of the book, "How to Cook Like a Man;", and how it relates to the story. The real story is of a man who comes across so self absorbed; so weighted down with his own inadequacies; so inwardly focused that I had a hard time getting past ALL of it. This is not the story of a man teaching himself how to be a better cook to become a better man. This is the story of a winey little boy who uses an obsession for cooking to escape a wonderful life with a family that loves and supports him. He describes these elaborate dinner parties with incredible menus that sound wonderful; and would have been wonderful had his wife not been several months pregnant and he wasn't using them to hide from his impending doom.
My advise is to read this book. Daniel Duane is a good writer and James Patrick Cronin is a great narrator. However be warned that this book has nothing to do about being a man. It is about a guy who is so self centered he cooks with an obsession to hide what a great life he really has and it is that obsession for cooking that makes this a good book to read for a foodie. Daniel Duane does a good job of describing the food, fresh produce, and wonderful meals he prepares and tastes and it is that journey that I enjoyed. Take this book for the great food writing and Daniel Duane....get some help!
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A Memoir of Obsession and Duck Fat
Daniel Duane was an a man looking to cope with the anxiety of having a new baby. How did he deal with his fear of new fatherhood? He threw himself into a cooking obsession that knew no bounds.
Appropriately enough, Duane starts by learning from one of his first teachers: Alice Waters. Yes, Duane had been one of her tiny preschool students when she was a Montessori teacher. Cooking through the Chez Panisse cookbooks, Duane becomes obsessed with learning his craft: hunting pigs on Maui and fishing for salmon in Alaska. He even gets private lessons from Thomas Keller!
Engagingly told, this book has as much to do with anxiety and perfectionism, as mastering a perfect duck confit.
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