Wednesday, February 14, 2007

An amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany — good subtitle, eh?




Just heard about this book yesterday from one of my clients (with whom I'm about to embark on a cookbook project — how topical!). So, the author, Bill Buford, apparently a fiction editor at the New Yorker (and an ambitious but sometimes disastrous home cook), gives up his day job and eventually gets a book contract to fulfil his titular adventcha - that of becoming a kitchen slave in Babbo, Mario Batali's New York restaurant. Buford starts out kind of star-struck, and is eventually burnt (literally), beaten, cowed — how does he survive? Well, here's an excerpt from the New York Review of Books:

"an increasingly obsessive nearly four-year odyssey that included stints with Batali's former teachers, indentured servitude with the crazy but gifted butcher of the subtitle and long hours learning Italian and poring over 15th-century manuscripts in an effort to find out when egg yolks replaced water in pasta fresca. Not surprisingly, along the way, he quit his day job — he had to. He started out, he says, as a "tourist," a journalist with a magazine assignment and then a book contract, who wanted to learn some basic skills and tell the tale. He does tell it, beautifully, but he is no longer a mere "author writing about the experience of the kitchen" — he is a proud "member" of the kitchen who has been forever changed."

Sounds good. Anyway, my client tells me it's fantastically written and really funny too. Check out the New York Review of Books article here, as it's very good and certainly piqued my interest.

Just one last thing — a comment on the covers. The top one is the American hardcover, and the bottom is the trade paperback available here. How do you convey heat typographically? And no use of photos on either cover. Very interesting. I quite like the top type treatment, in that you get a feeling for the idea of the burner on a stove (though technically I suppose they all use gas burners...) but that subtitle treatment isn't very good. And why did they remove 'Dante-quoting' from the subtitle? And in the bottom example they've used a very structured, geometric type (Bodoni? Didot? Filosofia?) melting away in a more organic way. Which do you prefer?

6 comments:

moyrad said...

Well, I would have bought the first cover with the neon and passed the other one by. I mean, I get it, the wavy heat vision but it's not very good. 1. it needs the whole title to be wavy 2. what is with all the yellow space? at the very least it should be red and/or orange. 3. did they ever hear of flames or burning white hot coals.
end Rant.

Leeeeesha said...

I disagree. I don't like the top cover at all. It looks so dated and almost sci-fi to me, in a way (and we all know how much I loooove sci-fi . . . )

Not that I think the second cover is much better, though. I also think the colour choice isn't ideal. But I would notice this book in a bookstore. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've already seen it.

YoonJu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoonJu said...

I don't like the top cover at all. It's too literal and cheesy. I wouldn't have given it a second glance. I think the second cover is better, although it's not quite there. I like the sparseness of it in contrast to the serif.

I heard this is a very good book, very funny.

YoonJu said...

I actually quite like the yellow, maybe if the type was in deep red or something...

Meg said...

I definitely like the bottom one better – it's more subtle, and I can kind of feel the heat in those melting letters. I think YoonJu's right, the yellow is fine, it's the black type which could be changed...

The top one didn't bring burners to mind for me, just neon signs, which feels more cold-dark-night than hot to me.

Sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading!