The Elements of Cooking

photo credit: Bryan Bassett          eating credit: Me

photo credit: Bryan Bassett          eating credit: Me

I love to eat eggs.

I absolutely love them. And as much as I love eating eggs, I probably love cooking them even more. While I don’t get to have them every day, it’s true enough to say that any morning that I’m not cooking an egg, it's only a matter of being either out of eggs or short on time.

Cooking, in general, is special to me. It's something that allows me focus intently on doing things the proper way, while also taking small risks and being creative. There's just something about it that I find very cathartic. So, putting a simple egg dish together for breakfast is a quick and satisfying way to scratch that itch several days a week.

I also love to read about food. I've had Michael Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking on my radar for years, but only just last week picked it up. So when I read what Ruhlman has to say about The Almighty Egg in the first chapter, I learned that he and I would get along just fine:

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“My reverence for the egg borders on religious devotion. It is the perfect food—an inexpensive package, dense with nutrients and exquisitely flavored, that’s both easily and simply prepared but that is also capable of unmatched versatility in the kitchen. Yes, an egg is just an egg, but it is also ingredient, tool, and object, a natural construction of near mystical proportions.

The egg is both nutritious and inexpensive. The egg is delicious served on its own. In combination with other ingredients, it can be even better. It adds flavor and richness to countless preparations, to others, texture and body. The egg is a versatile tool that transforms the consistencies of other ingredients: it can give liquids silkiness, turn oil into a sauce that has the luxurious, dense smoothness of a face cream, make chocolate fluffy and cream molten, turn a batter from liquid into a light solid sponge. It can be used whole or separated; the white and the yolk behave with unique and powerful properties of their own, either raw or cooked, and when cooked, cooked to any number of degrees. Even its shell can be used. And as an aesthetic object, considered for its design, the “egg is artful and, except for its propensity to roll off counters, efficient.”

Tough to argue with that, right?

Elements isn't all love-letters and pontifical monologues pertaining to Ruhlman's favorite ingredients. After the opening chapter on stocks, sauces, salt and the egg, it becomes more of an A-Z enclopedia of the various elements of classical French cooking. There is just enough opinion peppered in to keep things interesting, but make no mistake: this is an educational reference tool for cooks of all experience levels. If you consider yourself to be just enough of a Foodie 1 that you aspire to know at least a little bit about everything that takes place in a well-run kitchen, you need to own The Elements of Cooking.

You will need to read this one more than once, but if you're at all like me, you'll be happy to.

  1. I know- I hate "Foodie" as much as you do, but we haven't come up with a replacement yet, have we?