Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin
This was a really fun read, great for a vacation. The Apprentice is an enjoyable memoir of a chef who grows up in France during and after WWII, works his way up through French kitchens, and has a fascinating career as a chef, writer, and television personality here in the U.S. He was the head chef for General Charles de Gaulle, for heaven's sake!
If you are not a fan of food fiction or memoirs, this may not be the book for you. There's tons of mouthwatering food descriptions, funny stories, and really interesting facts: for example, even though Pepin dropped out of school in France when he was thirteen and came to America barely speaking English, he went back to school in the U.S. (Columbia) and nearly completed a Ph.D in French literature! Who knew?
And the funny bits are really funny. I was seriously laughing out loud in parts, which I did not expect at all. I've never watched any of Pepin's TV shows but I'll have to see if the library has any -- I need to see if he's as funny on camera as he is in the book. I must also point out that sections of this book are not for hardcore vegans/vegetarians, or for the faint of heart. The French are well known for charcuterie, and for using up every possible bit of an animal. Some of the descriptions about butchering animals might be offensive.
However, I loved this book. My only complaint is that I really wish it was longer -- it seemed like there was so much of his life story that was barely skimmed. I'd have loved to learn more about his friendship with other chefs, like Julia Child. And there are recipes and an index, so this book is really much shorter than 336 pages.
And what's sort of sad is that while I was reading portions of this book, full of recipes and descriptions of fantastic-sounding food, I was trapped on an airplane eating a dry, overpriced sandwich. If you are going to read this, please make sure that you have already made plans to go out for a fabulous meal, or have all kinds of snacks at the ready. I'm not talking about chips and salsa or any kind of salty snack ending in "ito." You need pate and cornichons and crusty bread and cheeses and probably a nice glass of wine or something similar -- preferably something you can eat without too much fuss, since you'll need extra hands to turn the pages. Trust me, this is one delicious memoir.