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Obsessed: The Cultural Critic's Life in the Kitchen

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by Elisabeth Bronfen
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Though technically a cookbook, Obsessed is really a jewel box of culinary insights and reflections from a erudite scholar who is also a passionate and adventurous cook. It's a treat for all those who say they love to read a cookbook even more than they like to cook from it.

A professor of American Studies at the University of Zurich, Bronfen is an intrepid cook, at once particular about ingredients and tools yet willing to experiment as the spirit moves her. "The portals of discovery," she writes, "are open." And that's just when it comes to combinations of salad greens.

In her book-stuffed apartment where she invites friends and colleagues over for dinner most nights of the week, a near empty refrigerator is nearly an invitation to panic. Her confiding, sincere voice suggest someone who just knows that by talking about food the two of you will become fast friends.

And what is she cooking? Smart, usually simple fare that you might expect from someone who owns boundless curiosity and hundreds of cookbooks: green beans with spinach and pear; couscous with chicken, cherries, and preserved lemons; pot stickers with pork and bok choy.

The recipes are talky and therefore informative. She'll tell you when she adds the salt and why, or what the point is of turning vegetables in a roasting pan. There's also an entire chapter on salvaging kitchen disasters. Such charm.

Hardcover. Color photographs. 

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