Book review: ‘The Amateur Gourmet’ |

Book review: ‘The Amateur Gourmet’

Naomi Havlen
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” Several years ago, I was pointed toward a fun blog for would-be foodies, I’ve never been a blog reader (subscribing to the theory that I don’t have enough spare time to keep up with someone else’s life, let alone my own), but I liked what I saw and kept reading.

Adam Roberts is the self-proclaimed Amateur Gourmet, and not long ago he came out with his first book, “The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop like a Pro (Almost).” I bought the hardcover edition, intending to review it here, but I waited too long and now the book is out in paperback.

The quickie back story of the Amateur Gourmet starts with the startling fact (to me, at least) that his parents prefer to eat out every night, rather than cook anything, ever.

So when Roberts found himself in law school and hating it, he may not have had any experience in the kitchen, but he still turned toward cooking to lift his spirits. When he graduated from law school he moved to New York to study dramatic writing at NYU, and kept on blogging about his experiences in restaurants and his own kitchen.

I appreciate Roberts as a clever, quick-witted writer, both online and now as a book author. Most people who enjoy cooking or exploring new foods in restaurants should enjoy this book, but it’s not for highfalutin foodies. This isn’t the book for you if you want to know why your souffle just collapsed, or the precise difference it makes when you hand-mince a clove of garlic, instead of using a garlic press. Roberts is called the Amateur Gourmet for a reason, and his book is a satisfying journey into the world of amateurs.

Roberts starts out detailing a few of his spectacular failures in the kitchen, but quickly moves on to more encouraging tales. He guides a friend through making spaghetti sauce over the phone, discusses how to be a gatherer rather than a hunter when food shopping, and learns the benefits of really sharp knives.

Later in the book he cooks for a date and then for his family, explains how to order well when eating out and how to dine alone (which includes a really funny story about eating alone in one of Paris’ most exclusive restaurants). And this isn’t just Roberts opining away ” he also gathers advice from some of New York’s most noted food critics and chefs. He wraps it all up by preparing a giant feast for his friends, and finally by doing the dishes.

Those of us who grew up watching their mothers prepare terrific meals may not understand what it means to truly start from square one in the kitchen as Roberts did, but his book offers an “if he can do it, then I can do it” feel, and has tips and tricks (not to mention great-sounding recipes) for the amateur gourmet in all of us.

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