Outside of politics, I do a lot of cooking. I have enjoyed it since I was five. I was such a picky eater, my mother made me learn to fend for myself. I have enjoyed it.
Over the last couple of years, I have taken to growing a garden to get what I want for food. Okra, tomatoes, herbs, green onions, etc. have all come from my garden and gone into stuff I cook.
Sean Brock is a restauranteur in Charleston, SC. He is the executive chef at Husk, one of the best restaurants in America, and one I’ve eaten at. He also has an affinity for good bourbons. The bar connected to Husk is awesome. He is also a partner at McCrady’s, another great Charleston restaurant worth eating at.
Both are hard to get into. I’ve managed to snag a spot in each with friends who did their long term planning correctly.
Sean Brock’s first cookbook is Heritage. It is probably the most buzzed about cookbook I’ve encountered in quite some time. Garden & Gun, Palate, Southern Living, Saveur, Bon Appetit, and other magazines and newspapers have all written it up. Other chefs have talked about it. I wanted a copy.
I’ve started getting review copies of cookbooks and other non-political books, but this was a purchase. It is a book I wanted.
Let me back up. I keep calling it a cookbook. Now that I have made my way through it twice, it is really an autobiography in the form of a cookbook. The pictures are gorgeous, the accompanying text is interesting, the stories of people God has put in Sean Brock’s life who now help him advance his art were really interesting.
Most of the recipes in the cookbook are recipes I will never make. At first take, I was rather disappointed. There are certainly some desserts I’ll try. Some sauces and rubs look great as well as a few drinks. The fried chicken is worth a try. But most of the stuff would either take too long, be too complicated, or I simply would not like. I’m a picky eater. Few of the recipes are what I would call comfort food, but they are the recipes that put Sean Brock on the map.
I say “at first take” because, again, this is more of an autobiography than a cookbook. I was rather disappointed after all the hype. I figured there must be something I am missing. So I read my way back through and found what I was missing. Sean Brock gives away a lot of what some might call trade secrets. In the process, he shows a real appreciation for local meats and produce. He writes about ways to make his recipes your recipes. That is what stands out to me. Going back through his book I may not want to cook his recipe, but he provides enough insight to show me how to make my own thing drawing from his inspiration.
He also provides great resources on where to order things he likes from chocolate to bourbon barrel aged vanilla — right up my alley for ice cream making.
This cookbooks is not like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I would put it closer to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, which (by the way) has become one of my favorite books on cooking. Sean Brock’s is not in depth and encyclopedic like McGee’s, but there is so much in the book to learn and savor.
I am kind of disappointed that Sean Brock’s cookbook is more of a coffee table book that a kitchen companion. But I am glad I bought it. There is enough in there for me to explore in the kitchen and, more so, much from which I can draw inspiration to do my own thing. If you are looking for a cookbook from which to cook, you probably do not want this one. If you are looking for a book on cooking that might inspire you to try new things and explore new tastes and textures, order it now.