Shimon Garber's From The Chef is a detailed overview of cooking styles in Europe and the U.S. Garber's history of cooking begins in Russia where he describes the most popular dishes, as well as how they came into existence. Not being familiar with Russian cuisine, I was fascinated to learn about certain dishes, including those served at weddings and Easter, as well as the history surrounding them. For instance, Salad Olivie is a popular Russian dish similar to the American potato salad except that it also contains meat. I also learned that Russians often stuff their turkey with porridge? Who would have thought of that? Garber provides extensive historical background to provide colour to his recipe book, such as the fact that during the 900-day blockade of Leningrad, residents were given rations of 4 oz. of bread.
After thoroughly highlighting Russian cuisine, Garber takes us to the U.S. He makes this transition by pointing out that Russians immigrated to New York - in particular, Brooklyn - and Paris after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and WWII. In New York, he highlights famous Russian restaurants such as the Russian Tea Room, then goes on to provide background about the evolution of fast food. We learn about Americans' fascination with KFC, Chinese food, Italian food and Mexican fast food such as Taco Bell. Garber wraps up his book by offering tips for healthy eating and food preparation. Garber gives very detailed instructions for his recipes, which I was grateful for because there is nothing worse than reading a recipe that is unclear.
Garber is at his strongest and funniest when sharing personal anecdotes about his cooking career such as the time when, working as a chef in Yalta, his driver raced through the streets, blaring the car's siren, in order to retrieve a box of vegetables that Garber had forgotten to bring in preparation for a VIP dinner. Although the contents of this book are rich and extensive, it could benefit from some better editing as some of the sentences featured awkward constructions, which made the reading a little rocky. Another suggestion for improvement would be to include photos with higher resolution as the existing photos, while helpful, did not always do the recipes justice. Overall a highly informative book about cooking and its history.
I am a Toronto writer and lifestyle blogger who loves to read. My lifestyle blog features food, events, healthy living, beauty, and books. I have an Honours B.A. in English and have worked as an editor in government.