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Uncooked

By Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski
(Flammarion, 2005)

Uncooked

We’re not sure how to feel about this book. We want to love it. It’s beautiful and gorgeously photographed. It isn’t a book for everybody, nor does it have to be. It seems intended for an elitist club—precisely which kind, we’re not sure—of which we’re not members.

Aesthetes we are, however, and Uncooked appeals to our artistic sensibilities. But, though we are not vegetarian, we nonetheless find there to be way too much foie gras, mackerel and cured duck on these pages. And while many recipes are surprisingly easy to execute and the food photography is stunning, we are hard pressed to find a single dish that appeals to our appetites. Okay, call us pedestrian, perhaps, but the bell pepper, tomato and feta cheese gazpacho might work. Certainly not the Granny Smith juice with salmon roe.

We’ve been observing the raw food movement with interest. Charlie Trotter’s creations are stellar. Roxanne Klein’s eponymous restaurant in Larkspur, a chic outpost in the San Francisco Bay area’s trendy Marin County, though now shuttered, deserved the rave reviews it drew during its heyday. Even raw food guru Juliano in Santa Monica has wowed us occasionally.

But when you try to take it into the home kitchen, things can get quite frustrating. A recent houseguest and devotee of “living food” took three hours to prepare breakfast. We’re all for the slow food movement, but not the fussy, tedious variation that relies upon dehydrators and other laboratory gadgets.



Also check out or review of Raw by
Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein.

Yes, we can love raw food, and we don’t mind putting in a certain effort. Adding raw items renders the blood more alkaline and immediately improves digestion. We could even go as far as saying that we have more energy when we eat raw foods. But where, oh where, will we get the Green Zebra tomatoes, lotus root, daikon sprouts and marsh samphire Uncooked demands?

It doesn’t come as a surprise to us that the authors aren’t cooks but, rather, a food development consultant and a landscape designer. It’s all about form over function here—high art, but not grounded. Spending too much time with the book makes us long for a big bite of M.F.K. Fisher.

We’re also aware of the difference between raw food and uncooked food. But necessary ingredients are difficult to come by and costly. And to come even close to the idealized creations in the book, you have to be a master at chopping, grating and slicing. Worse still, the wines suggested for pairings are pricey and hard to obtain. There are no ideas for putting together a full meal. And, at times, the translation from the French is sloppy.

The authors suggest spending the time saved by not cooking on arranging and styling your food and playing with its colors, shapes and textures. They say eating like this will keep you healthier and slimmer. They may be right and true, some folks will doubtless find this book a revelation—not to mention a nice coffee table addition. It’s just that we prefer to get a bit down and dirty and up-close and personal with our food—and show it some heat!

Reviewed by Sylvie Greil

(Updated: 01/08/09 SB)


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