Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review: How to Pick a Peach

How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons
This book is repeatedly mentioned on The Splendid Table, which I habitually listen to via podcast (or when I happen to be in the car at 2 pm on Sundays).  Russ Parsons is often on the show discussing a simple fruit or vegetable recipe, or giving tips about them.  I've been meaning to look for the book for a while, but finally got around to requesting it from the library the other day.

To sum it up, this is one of the best books I've read about how to choose, store, and prepare fruits and vegetables.  And everything is grouped by season!  Plus, he gives a nice story about how each one got its start on an American farm, and how it has evolved based on consumer whims, ease of transport, and marketing.  Parsons does a great job describing different varieties of fruits and vegetables, and the dishes/techniques that are best for each one.  After listing where that type of produce is typically grown and giving advice about how to choose the best one in the store, where to store it, and how to prepare it, he gives several recipes highlighting that item.  For some reason very few of the recipes jumped out at me, but maybe that's because I like very simple vegetable recipes, and rarely do anything with fruit other than eating it whole.  The other parts of the book are fabulous, though.

One of my favorite things is that he gives explicit details about which items should be stored in the refrigerator.  Most of my knowledge of this came from watching Mom and Dad, but I realized that in some cases they're wrong.  I already knew that you should never keep regular onions and garlic in the refrigerator (I keep telling you guys...), but the sweet varieties (like vidalias) should be in there.  And apparently lemons and limes last much longer if kept at room temperature.  Perhaps I'm one of few that didn't realize this, but I immediately jumped up and took mine out of the crisper drawer.

If I didn't already love the book for its entertaining histories and great tips, Parsons definitely won me over with his description of Red Delicious apples, calling them "a perfect example of the ruination of industrial agriculture" and "mealy and insipid, with a bitter finish."  I couldn't have said it any better.

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