Beyond the Kitchen

Joy the Baker Reads


I know this book is one of my new favorites for two reason. I’ve had it for three days, I’m half way through reading it, and the cover is already bent beyond belief. I have a nasty habit of falling asleep with a book and then sleeping all over that book all night. For that reason, my favorite books, the ones I read over and over again, either have no covers or are bent beyond recognition. Some might call this habit of mine charming. It is.

Let me tell you about Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating. In two simple words: super awesome! It’s a book for people who care about food, where it comes from and how it’s made. This book makes food a story about people and places, time and craft.

Take traditional balsamic vinegars, for example. Traditional balsamic vinegars come from the town of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  That’s it!  That’s the only place where traditional balsamic vinegars come from!  Are you still with me?  Balsamic vinegars weren’t even available for purchase until the 1980’s. For centuries, balsamic vinegars were lovingly crafted and passed down from family to family. Vinegars were carefully dema by the matriarchs of the family and kept under lock and key by the patriarch of the family. They were so essential to family history that they were often given as dowries.

See, I learned all that from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating!  The book is so inspiring!  It makes me want to go out, ask questions and seek out shops that are as nutty about food as I am.

Nowadays you can hop down to your local grocery store and buy virtually everything you’ll ever need, including an unassuming bottle of balsamic vinegar. I have to tell you that this isn’t the stuff that old Italian women are making in their attics. The real stuff, the good Italian stuff, the stuff approved by the Italian government is expensive. While the price may deter most of us, the taste and the experience is absolutely astonishing. The brilliant part about beautifully crafted food is that it inspires others to create good food in its imagine. That’s when those of us with tighter pocket books win.

For those of us who can’t spend $200 on a small bottle of tradition balsamic vinegar, there are inspired artisan varieties that have some pretty sultry depths. A bottle of artisan Elderberry Balsamic Vinegar (made from elderberries instead of grapes) will set you back $40, for example. Totally doable!

The amazing thing about good food, prepared with care is that your tongue will tell you what’s what. You don’t have to be a fancy vinegar connoisseur, or a cheese expert to tell the good stuff from the crap.

What I love about Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating is its totally unpretentious and approachable attitude. It shows us that good food come from people who really care about it, and that care translates into the quality of their product. Good food comes from culture and time and tradition.  Most importantly, good food is for everybody. This book totally warms my heart. Yea, it’s that good.