With our devastatingly unquenchable appetite for machismo, charismatic, hip television chefs, we often overlook the local cooking show, community recipe collection or the not-so-flamboyant cooks from just around the corner. When did the ability to shout at the audience in a television studio or back up your bread baking with a three-piece band qualify you as the almighty food authoritarian? Is there some aspect of food creation that somehow becomes remarkably improved if the chef is donning some ridiculous ensemble of chef pants patterned with chili peppers, a jacket that has more writing on it that his menu and trouncing through the kitchen wearing a cowboy hat? I know folks with such panache did not create the meals that I choose to remember. Does that make their food unsavory, unappealing or un-hip. Good! More for me. You see, the nouvelle revolution in food of the 80s and the fusion movement of the 90s has been replaced by the Spotlight movement. Remember that term, you heard it here first. If the masterful work on your plate does not taste wonderful, that's okay, because the guy in the back of the house is on television tomorrow night with his co-host, so that makes it all taste better.
Cantankerously speaking, its all for the birds. The first cookbook I ever purchased was The Three Rivers Cookbook, plastic cover and cheesy spiral binding to match. That particular book has seen more than its share of splattered pages, scribbled notes and the like. It is not fancy, nor do the contributors have names you would recognize. Their résumés are not laced with extraneous sparkles, thankfully. Just phenomenal food, done honestly. What does this all mean? I speak of Italian Rice Dishes by Diane Seed as part of the class of infinitely scholarly foodie that sits on the shelf in the shadow of those other guys. Did you ever think it was possible to scribe an entire book on Italian rice dishes? Her work stacks up one hundred of her best. For one fleeting moment, set aside everything you have heard about the 'latest and greatest' and pick up an author whose name you do not recognize.