Lost Arts, A Celebration of Culinary Traditions is a much-needed book in our fast paced society. Both a good read and a "working" and informative cookbook, it may help some-including myself-to slowdown and smell the roses, or at least the homemade bread and homemade goat cheese. Part memoir, part cookbook, this is a book full of wise advice, culinary history, and of course recipes, all of which pertain to the "lost arts" of making foods that are now so infrequently made at home.
Lynn Alley wrote the book, and it is very apparent that she not only knows what she is talking about, but is also very passionate about her subject. An established writer, Ms. Alley has contributed to many well-known periodicals, including Fine Cooking, Cook's Illustrated, Saveur, Appellation, The Wine Spectator, The Herb Companion, San Diego Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. She has also written the introduction to the classic tome on bread history, Six Thousand Years of Bread: It's Holy and Unholy History, by Heinrich Eduard Jacob.
The book begins with an introduction on the subject of "lost culinary arts," and it also explains how the author became interested with them first through her elder aunts, and then later while living down the street from the famed restaurant Chez Panisse, in Berkley, California. Many of the chapters begin that way, actually-with history and personal anecdotes from the author. It makes Lost Arts very enjoyable to read.
Lost Arts, A Celebration of Culinary Traditions touches on many of the old and forgotten culinary skills that were abandoned by many. There are nine chapters in all, and they cover the following topics: home-cured olives, growing and cooking with fresh herbs, homemade mustard, homemade vinegar, homemade cheeses, homemade bread, flavored butters and oils, jams and preserves, and finally, homemade wine. All of the subjects are very readable, not dry in any way-as some instructional books can be. Her writing is concise and to the point, but at the same time somewhat flowery this book definitely contains the personality of the author. All of the chapters contain not only the necessary information on the subject that is being discussed-instructions, advice, etc.-but also recipes on how to use the finished product, such as the Olive-Goat Cheese Spread made with homemade goat cheese, and Hot and Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette made with homemade vinegar and mustard. The book finishes with a full list of sources for some hard-to-find ingredients.
Lost Arts is superb addition to my library, and I highly recommend it to those interested in resurrecting and making some of these homey foods, and also to those who simply like to read about them. The world could use more books such as this. I look forward to devouring more of Ms. Alley's work.