Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Obsessive, compulsive cookbooks - ever heard of this disorder?

I can hardly say enough good things about this book. I either heard or read an interview with the author, who was the White House main chef for 8 years - 4 years with the Clintons and 4 years with the Bushes. In the interview, he was very well spoken, and extremely entertaining, and I knew I needed - had to have - coveted - this book. Amazon loves me because this kind of thing happens to me often. Here's the link on Amazon for The White House Chef, by Walter Scheib. Prior, he'd been the chef at the Greenbrier, that exquisite country hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, which gave him lots of credentials to fill the chef shoes at the White House. He already knew how to serve private parties of 8 and dinners for 1000. That place has always been on my want-to-go list, but it's pricey. Very pricey.

So, now we go to last night. Since my dear hubby is sailing on the East Coast with our friends Jerry & Judy (I get seasick, so I don't do small boats in the ocean; I rarely do big boats in the ocean), I made a vegetable dinner for myself and started reading. I kept reading. Did the dishes. Kept reading. Made myself some ginger-gensing tea and kept reading. Yes! This morning I made breakfast and started reading again. But then I got anxious to share this with you. So I haven't finished it yet. I need to put flags in the book on interesting recipes to try.

Maybe this book wouldn't appeal to just everyone. I enjoy reading about the behind-the-scenes stories of chefs. And what more interesting than at the White House, I ask? I have read Bourdain (eh, not so thrilled with his tyrannical nature), and recently read Heat, by Bill Buford (I liked this one a lot - it was almost a page turner). Then I saw an interview with Julia Child's nephew, regarding the book about his aunt's early years in France, My Life in France. I just loved that book. So much so that I bought one of her cookbooks because of it. (See, I told you I have a problem.)

So having gotten the White House Chef, here are my comments. It isn't gossipy in the least. He's very ethical and respectful of his position, and it didn't go to his head, either. He honors the friendships with the First Families to not tell tales. But he does tell interesting stories - like the cooking lessons he gave Chelsea, teaching her to cook before she went off to Stanford, for instance. The most engrossing were the details of his job interviews and the luncheon for 10 people that was his interview with Hillary. Apparently he clinched the deal with lamb, which Hillary loves, but he didn't know that little fact! Sadly, one small story - he arrived his first day of work with 25 knives, in his knife case, all personally monogrammed, and within two months all but two of them had disappeared. Amazingly hard to believe. Reading about the White House kitchen was also interesting, about the table settings, the flowers, the protocol issues, the food allergy issues for big dinners. All fascinating to me.

His recipes are do-able. They're not pretentious or all that complicated. They're not 30-minute meals, however. For the book he adjusted the recipes for the home cook, which is helpful. Hillary Clinton had a plan - she wanted him to showcase American homegrown products, and he celebrates them throughout the book. I like that. What better place than at the White House with State Dinners and hundreds of fancy events, to highlight America's bountiful harvests.

I expect I'll try some of the recipes soon. And I'll post them when I do. The book is at least half stories and the remainder recipes, some photographs, and facts about the White House and staff. So if you have someone who loves reading these kinds of things (maybe you?), I highly recommend this book. Would make a lovely Christmas or birthday present too. It's $16.47 at Amazon. But if you order several books the shipping is free. See how my logic goes?*

*My secret is that I keep a wish list on Amazon, so when I have enough there to qualify for free shipping, my wish list books can easily be dropped into my shopping cart. Yippee.


Anonymous said...

hi carolyn its saturday morning i have a few free moments so i am visiting your blog and enjoying it i printed the avocado butter recipe .i have heard of this disorder i work with a girl who has a severe case.... bye for now helen leewaye your draper and damon connection

Carolyn T said...

Helen - glad you enjoyed reading about my "disease." I wonder if I'll ever recover!

Anonymous said...

Carolyn - no one knows more than I do about how much you need ANOTHER cookbook!
Your friend, Linda