Thumbs up for The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir by Ellie Mathews. Food.
This winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off ain’t your checkered-apron homemaker type. College-educated, Birkenstock-wearing, grease-phobic, logical and practical – the quintessential Northwesterner, in fact – Ellie Matthews describes herself and her experiences with a kind of refreshing humorlessness, never able to take seriously the fact that she won a prize for throwing some stuff in a pan. She is a real person, and someone I could be good friends with. A kick-ass read for foodies.
“While my mother may have failed to teach me anything explicit in the nature of meal preparation, she did me a great service. With the unearned confidence of youth, I bought every herb and spice whose names were familiar to me, words I’d grown up hearing all my life. Cardamom, sage, oregano, thyme, turmeric, basil, rosemary, and of course cinnamon. I lined up their unmatched boxes and jars to the side of the stove and began to cook by smell. Depending on what I’d be preparing that night, I’d open my seasonings one by one, sniffing each intently until arriving at the one that smelled right for what I was cooking. Eventually I learned that thyme goes with chicken, sage with pork, and so on, all modeled on my mother’s own kitchen practices and the meals I’d grown up tasting. In the end, she had taught by example, which was not that bad a way to learn, a sort of olfactory Braille. As a result I am gutsy and experimental at the stove. While I take almost no physical risks and am profoundly timid in other facets of daily life, I lack the normal fear of working without a net when it comes to playing with my food.”
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