September 25, 2007

By Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books

Don’t forget: these books below are available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this review—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.

We’re still awaiting the big fall cookbooks, those big-name blockbusters that publishers count on for holiday sales (this fall includes Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Alice Waters, James Peterson, etc.). In the meanwhile, here are two very good books from sorta-locals that may otherwise slip under your radar.

First is the clearly titled Knife Skills Illustrated: A User’s Manual by Peter Hertzmann (a Palo Alto resident and teacher at Sur La Table). This is exactly what it sounds and looks like—a primer on how to use knives in food preparation. It has a Cook’s Illustrated look to it: plentiful and clear black-and-white illustrations. With this book, a thorough primer for the non-professional, your cooking will be faster and prettier.

I often worry that my kids won’t get to eat fish like we eat fish—there are just too many people to feed, we’re polluting oceans and rivers irreparably, etc. But Fish Forever, by Paul Johnson, the owner of the Monterey Fish market and purveyor to most of San Francisco’s finest chefs, gives at least a glimmer of hope. In some ways, this is a book-size expansion of the helpful Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which Johnson advises. But beyond guiding you to sustainable seafood and providing (relatively standard) recipes, this book is brimming with interesting sidebars, like the one on whether or not lobsters and crabs feel pain. Enjoy seafood while you still can, and do so sustainably, so my kids (seen here enjoying their first cupcakes) get a chance to enjoy salmon or oysters someday. Please?

Thanks for reading.