I wanted to like this book.
I like the author: all cute and friendly, showing up everywhere on TV these days. He writes well. And I believe he has learned to cook well.
But when I got to the definition in the photo above, I nearly threw the book down.
Why did Michael Ruhlman even include it in "The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen"?
OK, a little background. The book, one of those things you're tempted to call a slender volume until you remember that you avoid cliches like the plague, is part essay and part glossary. The essays, on cooking fundamentals such as stocks, salt, even eggs, are pretty good. (Though I don't know many average kitchens that want to cope with 10 pounds of veal bones to make stock.)
The glossary, which makes up about 80% of the book, is just pedantic crap Ruhlman gleaned from his touch-and-go education at the Culinary Institute of America (he attended as a journalist, not a student, but he did take classes).
On page 226 we learn that "Three teaspoons equal one tablespoon." On page 227 we discover that "Three teaspoons equal a tablespoon." Thank you, Michael.
There are definitions for all kinds of French items, techniques, tools. But what home cook even gives a damn what the meaning of "soigné" is? (It's "the French term for elegance and excellence of execution; see 'finesse'".)
Taking baby steps outside the world of French cuisine, he defines "kimchi" but not "paella." "Ceviche" but not "pita."
Several of the glossary entries look like space-fillers. For "bread flour," we are referred to "flour." Yes, ditto for "cake flour."
Oh, and the misspellings. "Liquour." "Wala-Wala onion." No!
It's just a maddening hodgepodge.
Is it useful to you to know that a "lowboy" is restaurant slang for an under-counter refrigerator? Or that "dance" refers to the "elegant synchronicity" of line cooking in professional restaurants? Hell, "dance" in my kitchen is defined as "Get out of my way, this baby is hot!"
I know that Ruhlman is busy building his brand. He's written a cookbook for The French Laundry with Thomas Keller, and helped Eric Ripert with his book-cum-travel junket, "A Return to Cooking" (I hated that book too; gave it away). Ruhlman appears on The Food Network and on his pal Tony Bourdain's show now and then.
This newest book is just another rung on his ladder to superstardom.
He's probably working on a signature tagline right now... but, Michael?
"Bam!" is already taken.