Category Archives: Food

Stone-age Dieting

The Paleo diet has gone from a fringe regimen endorsed by experimental seekers of the latest new thing to a relatively mainstream diet trend. For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the paleo diet purports that we need to go back to our nutritional roots: the Paleolithic era. Adherents of the diet argue that civilization has encouraged humans to stray from biologically appropriate foods that “cave people” would eat: meat and vegetables, but no grains, no processed foods, few nuts, and no sugar. Early press coverage of the movement featured hipsters eating all-meat diets (often raw) in between extreme workouts involving kettlebells and sprints through the city streets, in an effort to regain the vitality of their hunter-gatherer forebearers. Nom Nom Paleo is a sign of just how far this movement has come. It is written by a husband-and-wife team, creators of a popular food blog with a legion of fans. Michelle Tam presents the Paleo diet as a way for families to eat healthier and reject the over-processed foods crowding supermarket shelves. The cookbook is filled with attractive photographs of finished dishes and stages in cooking, as well as funny, silly cartoons drawn by her husband Henry Fong showing the couple and their two children cooking and eating. Tam describes her own discovery of the Paleo path (“My Name is Michelle and I’m a Foodaholic”) as a working mother trying to improve her fitness level while working full time as a pharmacist and raising two small boys. The book makes the Paleo lifestyle slightly less intimidating and more approachable, and contains enough interesting ideas that even cooks not fully embracing the diet’s strictures – like me! – can find recipes worth trying.

In the beginning of the book, Tam outlines the “red light foods,” including all processed foods, dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, and sugars, which are excluded from Paleo cooking. Even fruit is viewed only a “yellow light food,” good occasionally but prone to spike blood sugar levels. Nuts and seeds, which nutritionists and vegetarians routinely praise for their high protein and fibre content, here are said to require soaking, sprouting and dehydrating in order to make them ready for human consumption (Tam claims that nuts and seeds are something “nature didn’t intend for us to eat in large quantities,” which is a hard claim to either prove or disprove). All animal proteins, in contrast, are given the green light, although Tam does state that organic and grass-fed meats are preferable for ethical and environmental reasons. Vegetables, fermented foods, and healthy cooking fats like coconut oil round out the acceptable components of the diet.

I must admit that even after reading Nom Nom Paleo I remain skeptical about some of the nutritional claims of the diet. I have no doubt that Tam and Fong lost weight and improved their health by adopting the Paleo lifestyle. Cutting down on processed foods and sugar and cooking from scratch likely played a huge role in these changes. But this type of cooking requires a high level of commitment, one that is not realistic for many cooks and families. Swearing off not only gluten but all grains, dairy, alcohol, and most sweeteners would completely remake the pantries and daily dishes enjoyed by most North American families. To claim that rice and beans might actually be harmful and not suitable for human consumption, rather than nutritious, strikes me as the ultimate kind of first-world privileged selectivity. Similarly, a diet with so much animal protein is a luxury that most people around the globe could never afford. To be fair, however, Tam is never dogmatic about her approach and instead tries to emphasize the benefits of eating naturally occurring ingredients. And the frequent jokes and asides make Tam a likeable evangelist for this new style of cuisine.

There is no doubt that Tam is earnest about how this diet has transformed her life, but she also maintains that Paleo food can be delicious, so that adherents don’t feel like they are missing out on anything. So to an admitted Paleo skeptic, how were the recipes? On the whole, I found this a creative approach to cooking that provides some interesting new tricks for an old dog like me in the kitchen. The cartoons and clear illustrations accompany direct instructions for everything from searing meat to selecting kitchen tools. Tam is a master of coaxing umami – that elusive fifth, savoury taste alongside sweet, salty, sour and bitter – from dishes using mushrooms, fish sauce and miso. She includes a genius recipe for “Magic Mushroom Powder”, a powder of dried porcini mushrooms and spices that can be dusted on dishes for an extra blast of flavour. Other pantry staples including sriracha and mayonnaise get Paleo makeovers, and condiments like pineapple salsa, lemon honey sauce and remoulade further challenge any sense that the diet must be bland or monotonous. Not all of the substitutions are as promising. I understand that processed potato chips are a dietary nightmare (salt, fat and carbs – that’s also why they are irresistible). Tam suggests using kale, Brussel sprouts, apples and mushrooms to make chips, or prosciutto to make baked “porkitos”. While the instructions were clear, I have little reason to believe my kids will be sitting down in front of the t.v. with a big bowl of kale anytime soon. The riceless crab and avocado temaki rolls are rich, but to me would just be so much better with a little sushi rice slipped in.

The section on soups is dynamite, with a delicious and complex broth recipe using assorted beef and pork bones, mushrooms and ginger. The broth forms the basis of a delicious egg drop soup (West Lake Soup) or a spicy Mulligatawny variation. Also creative is a riceless fried “rice” that uses cauliflower in place of the ubiquitous carb. I made the variation with coconut milk and pineapple, which was tasty and quick (full disclosure: my kids, who usually love fried rice, were not fans). Tam’s Chinese background led her to experiment with classic dishes like walnut prawns, but she displays a well-travelled palate with dishes like Peruvian chicken with chili sauce, Korean short ribs and lamb chops with chimichurri. There is a very limited section of so-called “treats” that includes virtuous desserts like a pureed berry “soup” and a thoughtful essay about why Tam has decided not to attempt to recreate traditional baked goods or indulgences with Paleo-friendly ingredients and instead largely eliminated sweets entirely from her family’s diet. Tam and Fong’s self-discipline is admirable, but I must admit to feeling a twinge of sadness in reading that her two sons “literally dance around the house” on weekends when they are finally allotted a grain-free cookie or bowl of berry puree. Tam reassures readers that after a while those embracing this diet find their tastes shift so that they crave the clean, healthy flavours of the Paleo diet. She includes photos of the lunches she sends with her boys to school, including sandwiches where two pieces of roast beef act as the bread for a filling of mushrooms. These are colourful and creative but I still can’t help feeling like I would want to smuggle these kids a brownie once in a while.

Sarah Elvins is a historian living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She cooks, bakes, knits, reads, runs and nags her three children in her spare time.

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Cool Whip and Despair, Oreos and Joy: the emotional funfetti of a baking addiction

First off, let me just say that if you are currently trying to cut down on the amount of white sugar that you are eating, or you are thinking of switching your family to a gluten-free diet, this is probably not the cookbook for you. If, on the other hand, you have no moral objections to using Oreos as an ingredient to make other desserts, or think that putting a half cup of sprinkles right into the batter, rather than waiting to put them on top of cookies after baking (where they will only fall off and get wasted) is genius, you might want to take a look at Sally’s Baking Addiction. This cookbook, based on a popular baking blog, is filled with ways to increase the amount of joy in your lunchbox or dessert offerings, while probably expanding your waistline as well. Sally has a certain “more is more” philosophy, where squares have not only icing but extra glaze on top and banana bread is not complete without a crumble topping largely composed of butterscotch chips. Many of the cupcakes have an extra surprise inside like a dab of jam or Nutella that elevates them from the everyday.

I have to admit, I first approached some of these recipes with a certain snobbishness. When confronted with the fact that I would have to purchase boxed yellow cake mix in order to make the Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies, the inner foodie in me recoiled (“Cake mix? Really? Isn’t the whole point of a baking cookbook to avoid buying packaged cake mix? Am I embarking on some sort of terrible Sandra Lee downward shame spiral into the land of Cool Whip and despair?”).   I tucked the box of Duncan Hines into my cart, grumbling, but the cookies were worth any sacrifice of baking street cred. Sweet, soft, chewy and fantastic, they do taste exactly like a vanilla funfetti birthday cake somehow transformed into convenient cookie form. I made the oatmeal butterscotch “scotchies” over and over until my husband told me to stop, as he had no willpower to fight against their caloric onslaught. The cookies are all very popular with children and not too challenging to the palate (read: generally very sweet with lots of chocolate chips, melted chocolate and/or icing) but the recipes all turned out and were quickly devoured in our household.

And despite the inclusion of Nilla wafers, Nutella, Oreos or other packaged ingredients, this is a pretty traditional home baking cookbook. For those intimidated by baking, Sally outlines a very short and sensible list of kitchen equipment, and includes photos of every finished baked item, as well as some photos of stages of preparation. She gives clear instructions on how to cream butter, why dough should be chilled before baking, how to properly shape cookies and time their baking exactly. For those who like to measure ingredients by weight – and really, I will give a plug here for the digital scale as the one piece of kitchen equipment that will change your life – she includes gram measurements for dry ingredients, and imperial as well as metric measurements.

There are a few nods to current trends in desserts, particularly the combination of salty and sweet that has been showing up in bakeries and café menus. There is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that includes crushed potato chips for salt and crunch, and one for peanut butter cups topped with salted pretzels.   Sally uses salted caramel as a component in a number of recipes, including rice krispie treats and a cheesecake dip made of cream cheese and swirled caramel that would surely make one the most welcome guest at any party. She suggests serving the dip with apples or pretzels, but one can imagine people simply eating this by the spoon or handful until it is gone. Some of the recipes I found too sweet even for an indulgent treat. One fudge mixture of marshmallows, melted chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and graham crackers is a dentist’s dream of sugary stickiness, and Sally helpfully suggests variations where those who do not find the fudge decadent enough could add candy cane pieces or crushed Oreos to the mix if desired.

As you might sense by now, this is a cookbook of unapologetically indulgent treats. Even the so-called Healthier Choices section includes skinny banana muffins that contain one cup of butter and two cups of sugar, and a Peanut Butter Swirl Chocolate Snack Cake that I’m sure a nutritionist would categorize as healthier than few things beyond gnawing on a pure stick of butter. As befits such rich treats, many of the batches are relatively small in size, producing a small loaf, 12 cupcakes or 16 cookies. So in sum, this is a nice cookbook for those new to baking, or for those looking for a new twist on brownies or cookies. It is not hugely sophisticated or challenging in its goals, but that is its charm. These are solid, home-baking recipes that turn out and would be welcome at a bake sale or pot luck dinner.

Sarah Elvins is a historian living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She cooks, bakes, knits, reads, runs and nags her three children in her spare , time.

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Classic Fridays: HWJC (How Would Jacques Cook It?)

Have you heard of Jacques Pépin’s La Technique? Or La Methode? If you are as serious about French cooking as Julia Child, you have been sleeping with them beneath your pillow since they were first published in the late 1970s. If you are like me, you have learned of Jacques Pépin considerably later with the resurging interest in French cuisine thanks to the works of Anthony Bourdain and books like Julie and Julia. I confess with shame that I have owned Complete Techniques for more than five years but haven’t bothered to look at it until recently; my cooking aspirations are exceeded only by my inertia when it comes to improving skills that I think I already possess in passable measure. But let me assure you: it is worth taking the time to look at Complete Techniques closely. Yes, it is informative and astoundingly well-illustrated with step-by-step black-and-white photographs, yes, the instructions are clear and easy to follow, and yes, you will learn many (309!) very valuable cooking techniques and basic recipes from a culinary authority. But the real pleasure in this book is its ability to take you away, like its contemporary Calgon, from the harried nature of the North American kitchen. Farewell meals made from three cans and a package of instant noodles whose only virtue resides dubiously in its ability to be ‘thrown together’ and eaten out of an old yogurt container over the sink! Retreat into the pages of Complete Techniques, a place where food is meant to be delicious and beautiful, cooking enjoyable and creative.

It is true that at first glance Complete Techniques does not strike as a book about creative cooking. It instead strikes as the instruction manual that it is. Take Technique One, for example, ‘Holding a Knife’. It turns out that, according to Jacques Pépin, I have been holding a knife incorrectly all of these years. Would Jacques Pépin praise me for my freestyle chopping? Unlikely. This is because Complete Techniques approaches food the way that great musicians approach music: in order to be creative, one must first understand – really know – the elemental components and the traditional arrangements; only then can one emulate, respond, and innovate. Complete Techniques is therefore devoted to inculcating the basic skills necessary to prepare ingredients well so that they may be arranged into pleasing constellations of flavour and texture.

The book is divided into seven chapters ‘The Basics’, ‘Shellfish and Fish’, ‘Vegetables’, ‘Poultry and Meat’, ‘Carving’, ‘Breads’, and ‘Pastry and Dessert’. Each section contains numerous instructions on preparation of ingredients – seeding a tomato, skinning and filleting fish, filling a pastry bag, that sort of thing – and a variety of foundational recipes ranging from timeless onion soup and chicken pie to the probably less timeless salmon molded in aspic. Yet what Jacques Pépin considers ‘basics’ are themselves telling of a more gracious cuisine than the food that slouches upon many a modern table. Some inclusions, say, Technique Thirty-Two, ‘Scrambled Eggs’, are expected and almost superfluous (until you read them: I have been scrambling eggs improperly too, it turns out), but others will chasten those of us who want to post to Facebook when we manage to pull off a garnish of minced chives. Take Technique Forty, ‘Mushroom Fish’, that is, mushrooms that are made to look like fish, or Technique Forty-Four, ‘Flower Vases with Squash’ which are exactly what you think they are. When was the last time I put flowers on the table, even in a vase that has not been hand-carved from a butternut? I can’t even think. Why have I not been making use of Technique Forty-Two, ‘Cucumber Turtles’? I realize that my cooking has been positively grumpy in its utilitarianism. Perhaps my picky-eater children would regard dinner less as a punitive event and more as a pleasure – and so would I – if I were to appeal to at least four of the five senses with food instead of doggedly pursuing just the one, flavour, whose presence yields too often to concern over fibre or fat anyway. But limited time demands no-nonsense austerity, my inertia counters. Where will the time to put together ‘Olive Rabbits’, Technique Forty-Five, come from? From practice, Jacques Pépin would respond. Instilling proficiency is one of the stated aims of Complete Techniques (pp. vii-viii): you learn and rehearse the techniques and they become second nature, quick. Culinary sophistication and visual appeal are not sacrificed on the altar of efficiency.

It will perhaps be clear that reading through Complete Techniques can be a personal journey. This is in spite of the fact that the book is entirely about the food and not about the cook’s ego. Far be it from me to blame you for feeling proud of yourself if you manage to create sugar ‘Angel Hair’, Technique Two Hundred Forty-Eight, which involves waving hot sugar over a wooden spoon handle suspended over a newspaper-covered floor while standing on a stool for extra height. But Complete Techniques is not about fostering the cook’s self-esteem or smugness, it is about training a food lover to make food worth eating. Take chicken, for example. Jacques Pépin will not wheedle you into using a whole chicken instead of a package of boneless skinless breasts because recent studies demonstrate such-and-such health benefit of eating meat with bones. Instead, he provides directions on how prepare a whole chicken for different methods of cooking. The point is the chicken and how you are going to treat it, not the other way around.

Yet Jacques Pépin is careful to encourage his reader-student and is in fact endearingly supportive and understanding. He sympathizes with the difficulty of finding good cooking vessels that are both affordable and won’t discolour food (pp. 1-2). ‘Cooks often get confused when they hear names such as “brown sauce,” glace de viande (meat glaze)…jus, “broth,” “bouillon”, and so forth. In fact, it is confusing,’ he empathizes, and then launches into twenty pages of instruction on meat stocks to disentangle their mysteries. He worries about his readers damaging their skillet handles in the oven (p. 331: ‘be sure to cover it with several layers of aluminum foil,’) while making potatoes in the shapes of small soaps. He allows you a shortcut when things really might get frustrating or emotional, assuring the reader-student that ‘[t]hough we show you how to skin a rabbit, your butcher will do it for you if you prefer.’ And lest you feel like a failure if your first attempts at French bread are disappointing, he points out that ‘[v]ery simple recipes are often the most deceptive because they are the hardest to make well…Yet these ultra-simple recipes demand years of practice to achieve perfection.’ By the time you get to Technique Two Hundred Thirty-One, ‘Multilayered Mocha Cake’, and you read ‘[while h]olding the cake flat on one hand, ice all around. Turn the cake on your hand against the direction of the spatula,’ you know he will forgive you for the many cakes that will plummet to the floor as you work to conquer this technique. And if it is possible with patient practice to master icing a cake by using your own hand as a turntable, what recipe could ever again seem too demanding to try?

Most cookbooks expand your repertoire of individual recipes. Jacques Pépin will inspire you to be a better cook. Do yourself a favour and let him.

Pauline Ripat teaches Classics (when not practising cucumber turtles) in Winnipeg, where she lives with her husband and two sons.

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“Perfection is overrated, especially at 6 p.m. when everyone is tired and hungry.”

The family meal has been presented as a panacea for many of modern society’s ills, from childhood obesity, to behavioral problems, to breakdowns in family communication. Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share their Tried and True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen is an effort to encourage people to make cooking part of their daily routine, gain confidence in their kitchen skills and break out of the rut of take-away. A “keeper” in this view is a recipe that you would want to put into the regular rotation, to feed the hungry hordes after work and school. Although the “home cook” subtitle evokes self-taught and unprofessional cuisine, authors Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion have extensive backgrounds in food and publishing. Brennan graduated from culinary school, and has worked as an editor at Gourmet and Saveur. Campion has worked as an editor at food magazines, and also has a following online. Like Jenny Rosenstrach, a former food editor at Cookie magazine who created the blog (and two bestselling cookbooks) “Dinner a Love Story” to campaign for the importance of the family dinner, Caroline Campion blogs at “Devil and Egg,” describing the day-to-day triumphs and challenges of cooking for a family. Brennan and Campion have put together an attractive, easy-to-follow guide to help harried families put good food on the table even – gasp! – on a weeknight.

The book is aimed at beginners or those who are less confident in the kitchen, but there is much here that will interest more experienced cooks as well. Brennan and Campion provide tips for stocking a kitchen, going shopping with children, presenting dishes, and tweaking recipes for consistent results. “The Keepers Manifesto” contains solid advice to cook by, including “Season like you mean it,” and “Perfection is overrated, especially at 6 p.m. when everyone is tired and hungry.” There are plenty of photographs of finished dishes, some of steps in preparation, and occasional shots of the authors cooking in their large and expensive-looking kitchens and feeding their families. Charming line drawings enliven pages where there are no photos. The recipes are organized according to Mains and Sides, and most can be completed in under 45 minutes using ingredients available at the local supermarket. Although there is a very small section of meatless main dishes, most of the meals revolve around a meat or fish protein, with vegetables as the side dish. These are intended to be “everyday” recipes, but there are quite a few that would be suitable to serve at a casual gathering of friends. There are no desserts, but a section of “lifesavers” (condiments like an avocado spread or carrot-ginger dressing) encourages experimentation and repurposing of leftovers.

Some of the offerings are new twists on old favourites, like meatloaf with chopped pancetta. Family-friendly sliders are made of pork tenderloin marinated in pineapple juice and brushed with hoisin sauce, and topped with a delicious combination of miso paste, mayo and lemon juice. Quesadillas are a staple in many households, but Brennan and Campion suggest a new technique, toasting the tortillas first so that they are crispy rather than floppy. London broil steak is enlivened by a simple mustard butter and pasta rags with rock shrimp uses no-boil lasagna noodles to produce a stracci-style, torn pasta. The offerings are tasty and varied, but not intimidating to cooks or eaters. The only recipe that would give me pause to attempt on a Tuesday night was the shrimp wonton soup, but the clear list of steps and photos of how to fill the wonton wrappers might encourage me to attempt it one day.

On the whole, the recipes are not “dumbed down” to suit children’s supposedly finicky palates. I think this is a good thing – North American kids menus at restaurants are a sad and endless parade of French fries, hamburgers, grilled cheese and the like. Instead of producing ten variations on chicken fingers (although there is one killer recipe for deviled panko-crusted chicken thighs), the authors suggest putting vibrant dishes like Greek-Style Fish with Yogurt, Sausage and White Bean Gratin, or Belgian-style Mussels on the table and having faith that your children might try and like these delicious things. Anyone with children knows that you cannot predict just what will be a hit, but Keepers has a range of dishes that should appeal to parents first, and with luck, to many kids as well. Our bunch happily ate the “Japanese-Style Meat and Potatoes,” although one child probably ate mostly potatoes, one ate mostly broth on a bed of rice, and the other ate the carrots and meat. Small victories. Keepers is a nice addition to the cookbook shelf, and will be reached for midweek when you need inspiration to put a meal on the table. And that pork slider recipe really is a keeper.

Sarah Elvins is a historian living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She cooks, bakes, knits, reads, runs and nags her three children in her spare time.

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Jewish Gaijin Ramen

Ivan Ramen is a combination memoir, photo essay, travel guide and cookbook. Ivan Orkin was a highly successful proprietor of a ramen noodle house in Japan. He recently returned to New York to open two noodle restaurants to much acclaim. Artisanal ramen, with its carefully concocted broth, homemade noodles, beautiful toppings and yet down-home sensibility is currently enjoying a moment in foodie circles in North America. Orkin’s book certainly has some hipster credentials: there is a foreword by David Chang, and the colourful layout and graphic style owe much to Lucky Peach, the food journal founded by Chang and edited by Chris Ying, Orkin’s co-author. But despite these very current elements, Orkin’s story itself reads like an old-fashioned, almost Horatio-Algeresque novel where, through hard work and pureness of heart, the hero succeeds in the end. And you do end up rooting for this odd, soup-obsessed gaijin (foreigner) who so loves Japan and aspired to fit in to the insular world of ramen chefs in Tokyo. Orkin describes how a high school job washing dishes in a Japanese restaurant in suburban New Jersey sparked an obsession with the country. He majored in Japanese in college, and then moved to Japan to immerse himself in the language, culture, and cuisine. He recalls his first experience eating ramen, in a hole-in-the-wall noodle house where the soup was served, as is customary, searingly hot: “A layer of fat hovering on top of the soup seemed to have sucked in the flames from the stove only to unleash them in my head…My brain screamed for me to stop eating, but I looked around at all the other diners casually spooning and sucking in the boiling liquid, and I persevered.” Orkin is a funny, self-deprecating guide to Japan. Eventually he marries a Japanese woman, moves back to the U.S. and decides to go to culinary school. He clearly showed great promise as a cook, and landed a coveted job at the legendary French restaurant Lutèce in New York. But a personal tragedy eventually led him back to Japan, where ramen was becoming something of a national obsession. One Japanese TV personality was known as the “Ramen Devil” and hosted a show where he harshly judged young ramen chefs. Shops offering handcrafted, high-quality ramen created with a real attention to technique were popping up across the country. Orkin began sampling as many different kinds of ramen as possible, and eventually began to seriously consider opening his own ramen shop. This was not a decision to make lightly: Orkin was already an accomplished chef, yet felt compelled to take a six-day crash course for aspiring ramen chefs. This is not a simple case of making a bowl of broth and slinging some noodles in it. Orkin describes how he wanted to “layer flavors, deploying the same tastes in several different guises – chicken broth plus chicken fat, for example.” He painstakingly experimented with crafting broth and noodles, changing the percentage of water in the noodles by a tiny amount, or tweaking the composition of his dashi. Eventually his tiny restaurant opened in 2007, and thanks to a combination of good luck and good connections, became a popular spot in Japan. It speaks volumes about both celebrity culture in Japan and the country’s obsession with cuisine that Orkin can credit his early success to a good review from “one of Japan’s preeminent ramen critics” and an appearance on a prime-time TV show which featured “famous ramen makers who would taste and comment on [his] food.” At first, people were attracted by the novelty of a Jewish guy from the United States who would dare to open up a ramen shop in Tokyo. But Orkin’s fluent Japanese and his astoundingly good noodles soon turned him into a national sensation. He eventually got a call from Sapporo Ichiban, who decided to bring out an Ivan Ramen brand of instant noodles. He opened up a second restaurant, and settled in to a happy domestic life in Tokyo. But in 2011, the earthquake that hit Japan caused Orkin to decide to move back to New York, and start over once again. Orkin’s memoir moves quickly and while never sentimental, contains very affecting passages about his love for Japan and the challenges he endured en route to becoming the ramen king. Interspersed throughout the first section are photos of Orkin and the restaurant, and interviews with chefs and ramen enthusiasts. The final section of the book contains the recipes, starting with the complete instructions for constructing a bowl of Shio Ramen. This is not a cookbook for the fainthearted. Orkin rose to the top of the ramen game through a combination of precision and, well, madness. In order to make one perfect bowl of soup, you are required to assemble eight different components, from the rendered chicken fat that gives the broth its silky mouthfeel to the dried bonito fish salt, to the homemade toasted rye flour noodles. While Western cooks might simply use a sliced boiled egg as a garnish on a dish, Orkin describes simmering eggs for exactly six minutes and ten seconds, shocking them in an icewater bath, soaking them in a mixture of soy sauce and seasonings, and then slicing them with a “taut nylon fishing line” so that no yolk will be smeared or wasted. Other recipes describe uses for the components of ramen, such as omelets flavored with dashi or breakfast stir-fry yakisoba noodles with pork belly chashu. The dishes look mouthwatering in the accompanying photos, but I must confess that your humble reviewer has thus far only imagined how mindblowing a bowl of Ivan ramen would be. In sum, this is a very enjoyable read for armchair travellers and cooks alike. While I might not ever get around to crafting that perfect bowl, I am glad Ivan Orkin opened the door to his tiny kitchen to share his craft and his story.

Sarah Elvins is a historian living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She cooks, bakes, knits, reads, runs and nags her three children in her spare time. 

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