If you watch food shows on TV, you'll find that a lot of chefs will refer to home cooks as though they're inferior to those folks who cook in professional kitchens.
Other chefs, though, will talk about how some of their best meals were made by their mothers or grandmothers. Or they'll talk about home-cooked meals in small villages that changed their lives.
If you think about it, many - or most - of the dishes served in restaurants today were created in home kitchens many generations ago, before restaurants even existed.
Sure, a professional chef today has skills that a home cook might not have. But grandma's lasagna or chicken soup is probably on of the dishes that you crave the most.
Not every home cook is a genius in the kitchen, of course But there are some pretty good home cooks out there with natural abilities, generations of traditions, and plenty of practice.
The book In Her Kitchen celebrates those home cooks. The author, Gabriele Galimberti, traveled to a variety of countries as a writer for an Italian magazine, and visited with grandmothers in many of those countries, learning to cook what they cooked.
Each recipe comes with a short biography of the women, a photo of them with their ingredients, and a photo of the finished dish.
I was fascinated by the photos of the women with their ingredients, usually in their kitchens. The homes ranged from high-end to dirt floor, and the ingredients ranged from pretty common to ... iguana.
The photos really brought home how small our world really is. For every photo, I tried to identify the ingredients, and I was pretty successful for most of them. Even the bottle and cans were familiar - even when the labels weren't in English, the shapes the bottles often identified the contents. I guess I spend too much time in grocery stores.
I really wish that there were more to the stories about these women - while it's great to know how many children and grandchildren they had and where those children lived, I would have been more interested in what they talked about while cooking, what the food was like, and other little details.
I already have a few recipes bookmarked to make later (not the iguana) and I plan on spending just a little more time ogling the kitchens.
Okay, maybe I can think about that iguana recipe. Chicken should be close enough.
I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.