A Kitchen Novice Inspired by Carol Field, author of The Italian Baker

Re-posted from www.therecipeclub.net
Posted by Ali Slagle on November 28th, 2011

I was invited last week to join our senior publicist at an event for Carol Field, author of The Italian Baker (Ten Speed Press, November 2011). As I trekked over to Danville’s Rakestraw Books, I was slightly apprehensive about the upcoming evening. There was the very real possibility that the majority of the night would fly right over my head, as during my cooking career I’ve heard more “Is something burning?” than “That smells delicious!” And with baking bread being a notoriously challenging task for even well-seasoned chefs, I was prepared to just enjoy a night in a cool bookstore, hanging out with some friendly coworkers, and hit the hay content that I had simply done my part to support one of our awesome authors at a local venue.

“I sometimes forget that authors, at their core, are storytellers.”

As seems requisite for me, I arrived 10 minutes late to Rakestraw Books on a Thursday evening, and Carol was all ready speaking to a rapt group of readers and fans in the middle of the colorful bookstore. She was doing one of the best things good authors do: telling a story. I sometimes forget that authors, at their core, are storytellers. As I settled in to listen to Carol speak about her experiences with bread and the genesis of her book, I was struck by the seemingly innate talent some are blessed with to tell a good story.

As the owners of Rakestraw passed out delicious warm stew accompanied by dark rye and golden sourdough breads to the crowd, Carol was content to talk about the roots of her ideas for The Italian Baker. She shared the eccentric stories of her time in Italy–following the trail of bread baking techniques that date back to Roman times–and learning the trade from passionate bakers who preserve not only a baking tradition, but a way of life. She talked about peasant recipes that use every last crumb: both a necessity of life and a feast for the palate. She shared stories of bringing her knowledge back to the US, where rustic Italian breads had been previously overlooked, and how she desperately wanted to share these incredible artisan breads in such a way that would allow home bakers to make and enjoy them.

While munching on some truly delicious breads and biscotti, I was thoroughly enchanted by the wonderful story of Carol’s journey to creating this staple cookbook for bread enthusiasts everywhere. Over the course of her talk, she emphasized the seemingly endless possibilities of bread making, and the ease with which an educated baker can control the its many variables. She spoke of bread as many speak of fine wine, with an obvious love for the varieties, a deep-seated knowledge of technique and practice, and a solid connection to the roots and tradition of the craft.

Carol concluded the event by taking questions and speaking personably with every person there, sincerely delighted to be sharing her expertise and love of artisan breads. Her attitude towards bread can only be called infectious, and as I left the warm atmosphere of the Danville bookstore, my signed copy of The Italian Baker in hand, I felt more confident than ever about this new avenue of baking opening before me.

The Italian Bakerreads like a travel guide through the back roads and ancient streets of Italy, and Carol’s love of her subject shines through the simplicity and variety of recipes collected in her book. If you can catch her in a city near you promoting her new revised edition, her presence and demeanor will surely impress, and I highly recommend coming out to meet her in person. This author’s intent is not just to show off the creations of traditional Italian bread makers, but also empower her readers to become artisans themselves.

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