Monday, January 2, 2017

Rainy Afternoon + Good Book (and maybe some popcorn) = BLISS!

"Food and the City; New York's professional chefs, restaurateurs, line cooks, street vendors and purveyors talk about what they do and why they do it" by Ina Yalof   G.P. Putnam's   364 pages   $28

A glance at this writer would inform you that she likes food.  But also enjoyable are the stories that come out of the kitchens where it's made.  Apparently working in the kitchen is hell.  Except for the chef who is boss of all he sees.  There are two responses from everyone else in the kitchen and they are "Yes, chef" and "No, chef" - no other communication is permitted.  None.  This being a chef would be beyond great if ... one didn't have to go through hell before rising that far.

There are horror stories about peeling vegetables for two years - and nothing else - before working your way up the ladder to such as sauce maker, pastry chef, line cook, sous chef.  None of them sounded enticing and the hours really suck. 

These are brief interviews with the people who waiter-ed and catered, started a restaurant ... all very interesting because they are real people telling some engrossing stories.  I recommend it if for no other reason than to finish it and say to yourself, "Thank God, I never want to cook professionally."

"The Bonjour Effect - the secret codes of French conversation revealed" by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau  St. Martin's Press   310 pages   $25.99

The basic rules for living in France are explored enthusiastically and go far to explain the national mentality - heated discussions over the dinner table are entertainment, not warfare and the better you can represent your point of view skillfully, the more you will be applauded.   The French love a good argument. 

Much like the American south and Midwest, never ask someone what they do for a living.  Always start a conversation with a friendly "Bonjour!" and - this is critical - wait for their "Bonjour" back.  This is a non-negotiable item. 

From personal experience, I can tell you that something simple - buying a pack of cigarettes, for example - can take as long as a three-act opera.  You open with the Bonjour! salvo, inquire about each other's health or the weather and then you begin to get down to business, using please and thank you.  Then you ask about the price and give the amount to the store keeper who thanks you and (finally) out the door you go. But not before wishing each other a good day.

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