The Art of Cooking

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The initial chapters of this book introduce the cook to basic ingredients and basic cooking techniques. For example, there are pages devoted to herbs and spices where the properties of each seasoning are described, accompanied by photographs. On other pages, various cooking techniques ranging from breading meat and seeding cucumbers to crushing ice are explained and illustrated. In fact, throughout the book, no step in the cooking process is presented only in words. Each step is accompanied by one of Zabert’s photographs.

In the recipe chapters, Zabert runs the gamut of foods from eggs, rice, and pasta, through vegetables and soups to fish, poultry, and meat, ending with desserts. In each chapter, he follows the same formula. First, the basic methods of handling the food are explained. Then, ways to vary the basic preparation are presented. This usually includes alternative garnishes or lists of ingredients that may be substituted to change the focus of the dish. Finally, he concludes with several more sophisticated recipes for the advanced cook.

As in any cookbook concerned with nouvelle cuisine, there is an emphasis on fresh ingredients, including those, such as kiwi fruit, that have been considered exotic in the past, as well as recipes that draw on the best of many ethnic traditions. Yet, despite its many virtues, the book is not entirely successful. The biggest problem is the photography. Zabert is an artistic photographer whose works have been exhibited widely. Artistic representations of food, however, are not necessarily appetizing representations of food. Also, the sheer number of photographs often detracts from their usefulness. Pages on which thirty different ingredients are displayed in little pictures look more like a game of lotto than a cookbook. While THE ART OF COOKING may be an excellent introduction for the novice, it is unlikely to replace classic texts such as THE JOY OF COOKING, and it offers little to inspire an experienced cook.