I fell in love with this book, especially the concept of the book, right away. I cook with lots of wonderful voices in the kitchen - both grandmothers (Coca Cola Cake and Lamb Stew on one side, Lemon Meringue pie and Chicken Croquettes on the other), my mom, good friends, Mrs. Child - of course, the brilliant chefs I've worked with, TV chefs who want to draw us in and get us moving and the quiet cookbook writers and stylists who offer their best.
They all seem to want to engage with us so we try new things, to go beyond our self-imposed borders and experience the wonders of the kitchen, the market, the table. At some point in the book, and it may have been too early on, Ms. Kalin's voice went from collaborative and encouraging to showcasing. Her Kitchen Whisperers are the chefs, the magazine editors and the stylists with whom she collaborated. Somehow, rather than drawing us in, she seemed to have drawn a line - a sort of "us and you" line I found off-putting. She makes a statement about a chef whose new kitchen isn't completed and he brings an amazing meal to the table with two toaster ovens and a hot plate. Brilliant! Wonderful! Exciting! Tell me more, tell me how. Instead, she goes on to comment, "In most chef's kitchens, and especially in most high-end non-chef's kitchens, you'll find a row of shiny appliances that signify mastery to the Williams Sonoma crowd but in reality only telegraph a quick Amazon trigger finger. (Just because they're there doesn't meant they're used, or used well.)" Ouch. There is this unnecessary defense of expertise. I'd prefer she acknowledge the heritage of home cooking - the inspiration, the doing, showing, trying, sharing. It's food! If someone with limited experience gets their hands dirty by using shiny appliances and gadgets, hooray! They're in the kitchen.
I will say this, the book is staying in my kitchen. It was passed along by my dear friend Michelle - who is a fabulous cook and one of my Whisperers. I assumed I'd read it and pass it along, but I can't! It's FULL of sticky notes, full of ideas for the hours I'll spend at the farmers market and then in the kitchen. (I do wish she'd indexed all the non-recipe recipes!)
This is a good book but sadly, Kalins managed to separate, perhaps unintentionally, the reader and her accomplished associates, when she could have sidled up next to us and become our Kitchen Whisperer.