Don’t worry, my love for cooking hasn’t gone anywhere. Just in the past two weeks I’ve made homemade naan bread, cooked up some delicious sweet potato hash, and made meatloaf sliders over homemade fontina cornbread (truth be told A actually made most of that recipe – and nailed it!) The last cookbook I got was Relæ: A Book of Ideas by Christian F. Puglisi. Puglisi is the chef and owner of a restaurant by the same name in Copenhagen. I was initially drawn to this book because it seemed to be a veritable tome of information at a staggering 448 pages and seemed quite unique.
Aesthetically, it’s an absolutely gorgeous book. Hardcover, beautifully tabbed, modern. I was really thrilled when I opened it, because I’m a suck for good marketing. It also reads like an actual book. It tells the story of the restaurant, the story behind various aspects of the restaurant (from their water filtration system to the bread served at the tables) with fine detail. Every chapter and subchapter is heavily cross-referenced so you can go back and forth easily. You can glean some useful, practical tips here and there, such as the best place to store olive oil in your kitchen (hint: not by a heat source), different ways to cook with butter (basting your meat with it!), and how to incorporate vegetable skins into a recipe. It also has gorgeous photography throughout – large, full page images.
Well, as you may have guessed from the short section above, this cookbook fell a bit flat for me. It’s not really cookbook. It’s the very long account of Puglisi’s restaurant and every single detail of it. The recipes themselves are pretentious. Several require a sous-vide machine. The writing often comes across as condescending and the word “mouthfeel” is used and I absolutely despise that word.
It’s not to say that I don’t have an interest in food or food theory, but I also have a strong interest in cooking good food. I don’t care if tap water isn’t good enough, I care about fresh (local when I can!) ingredients, interesting recipes, and good that tastes good. Plain and simple. The author opens the book by saying loves buying cookbooks, but he only ever opens them occasionally and admittedly never cooks from others’ recipes because he wants to put his “stamp” on everything. This is a bit much for me. I know this book has been well reviewed and people have said it’s wonderful for furthering their culinary journey; I guess we’re on different journeys.
Recommended for: A professional chef, restauranteur, or foodies that take themselves very, very seriously.