I once heard somewhere that every book has its niche. If this is true The Magic of Fire fills its niche completely. This is not merely a cookbook The Magic of Fire is a definitive guide to cooking almost any food over or in a live fire, whether it's a campfire, backyard grill, fireplace, or wood-fired oven.
Besides the usual chapters one might find in a cookbook-appetizers, soups, fish, poultry, etc.-this book also has chapters geared exclusively towards this unique craft, such as The Fire, which describes how the author refers to various types of fires, and Cooking Multicourse Meals, which describes how to cook numerous dishes at once over or in a live fire. There's also a chapter titled All About the Fireplace, which as the name suggests, illustrates each aspect of the home hearth. But my favorite chapter is Key to Cooking Venues, which explains the different nuances of cooking over a live fire in various situations, such as in a fireplace, on a backyard barbeque grill, or in a campfire.
The recipes are well written, interesting, and easy to follow. And unlike the usual cookbook format that may tell you what cooking equipment is needed to complete the recipe, The Magic of Fire also describes what fireplace equipment may be necessary, and what type of fire you should be burning. They also offer primary and alternative cooking venue suggestions (fireplace, campfire, barbeque grill, etc.). One of the things that impressed this reviewer is that there are recipe chapters pertaining to baking bread and desserts over an open fire.
With its jet-black cover, red lettering, and a picture of a kettle before a blazing fire, this book is as attractive to look at as it is useful and interesting to read. It's as if the publisher designed it specifically for the coffee table and not the bookshelf. Inside you'll also find beautiful full color illustrations by Ian Everard.
Cooking over an open fire is rustic to a certain point, and most definitely brings out primal instinct. The Magic of Fire will inspire both the professional and home cook to shut of their ovens and to build a fire. William Rubel is currently working on a book about bread ovens their history and place in village life.