October 11, 2009

Chez Pim's Handbook for Foodies

Pim.jpgPim Techamuanvivit is a long Thai name, so we started off with some ingredient substitution, running it through tinyURL.(yfnwm47) and bit.ly (11rrEF). Conclusion: don't try this at home; you'll lose the romance. Cooking isn't Twitter, after all.

Nah, just call her Pim and be done with it. Her blog, ChezPim, is as good as anything on the web, admired by foodies of all stripes and flavors. And now she has a terrific book, part guide, part memoir, part recipes, called The Foodie Handbook. Unlike many cookbook these days, the recipes are carefully thought out and quite detailed (the one for Phad Thai alone runs 15 pages) but they're not intimidating. There's an element of wide-eyed adoration for celebrity French chefs whose recipes Pim "adapts" for the American home cook, and the reader sometimes gets the feeling the conversational tone wasn't so much typed on a keyboard as dictated into speech recognition software, but the effect is never boring. Pim's an interesting dinner party guest who explains not just what she does but why she does it. Like all good cooks, she seems to have an intuitive relationship with her ingredients.

The pictures are particularly delightful. Pim's food closeups are perfectly composed and full of bright colors, and they're accompanied by black & white candids of Pim "at work" (drinking Champagne, visiting markets in Santa Cruz, where she lives). She's a cutie-pie, for sure, and so what if she plays to the camera?

Pim ends her book with a scattershot list of 50 things every foodie needs to do, ranging from the highly specific ("Drink a perfectly made espresso at Caffè Mulassano in Turin") to the vague and general ("Cook without recipes"). Well, we've been to Turin, and Mulassano's fine; we've cooked without recipes, too, results not guaranteed. Go Dungeness crabbing in Washington State, she says, implying that you can simply dip your bucket in the tidal waters and haul out a feast. She might want to read Langdon Cook first.

Those are quibbles, far outweighed by flashes of brilliance. She's skeptical about Robert Parker, she recommends riesling with Thai food. Aperitifs are like foreplay, digestifs are post-coital cuddles. She adores Armagnac. She has eaten a perfect peach.

The Foodie Handbook: The (almost) Definitive Guide to Gastronomy, 256 pages, Chronicle Books.

Posted by Ronald Holden at October 11, 2009 11:11 AM | TrackBack

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