I've finished this now, having first mentioned it a few posts ago. I have already passed my library copy on to H&D (14 days, non-renewable - don't forget to take it back!). For those who don't know, Bill Buford was the fiction editor of the New Yorker and founding editor of the literary journal Granta when, as an amateur cook, he had the chutzpah to invite Mario Batali to dinner. One thing leads to another, and before long he is working as a prep cook at Babbo, after which we find him in Italy learning to make hand-rolled pasta, and working as an apprentice to a crazyTuscan butcher.
I loved this book! Among other things, and in no particular order, here are nuggets I came away with:
1. The importance of the acidity factor in cooking (Mario learned this from Jeremiah Tower.)
2. Chicken feet are the secret ingredient in the Babbo chicken stock.
3. If you plan to saute greens in a dish, boil them first to make sure they are tender.
4. The immigrant population New York today is 40%, the same as in 1892.
5. A stuffed bird will cook more slowly than an unstuffed one and will end up being more tender because of it.
6. At Babbo fresh pasta is frozen in baggies in portion-size amounts which are then cooked to order. (One could do this at home.)
7. Never eat late (or just before closing time, that is) at a restaurant. The kitchen will be in chaos and the cooks will all be drunk.
8. How to make a perfect pasta with clams.
9. Mario has a "secret sauce" involving yogurt, red hot chiles, and red peppers. It goes on the plate under the entree and blends imperceptibly with the meat juices.
10. Babbo pasta is made with the 3 eggs and 8 yolks per 1 lb of flour (plus water, salt, and dribble of olive oil).
11. Think twice before eating in restaurants in the winter, realizing that there is no such thing as a "sick day" for the cook staff.
12. It is very worth seeking out a source of grass-fed meats.
And per this last item, I have read elsewhere that grass-fed cattle (as compared to corn or grain fed ones, organic or not) are much less apt to harbor the e-coli bacteria in their intestines, meaning that crops (such as spinach!) which are fertilized with their manure are also worth seeking out.