Back in 1991, when the first edition of Sauces was published, it's as though James Peterson said, "Okay, this is what we know so far. Where do you want to go from here?" The "what we know so far" part started with the Greeks and Romans, moved through the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance, through the 17th and 18th centuries, and right on into time as we know it, time that can be tasted in the sauce.
The "where do you want to go" part continues to evolve, as it always will, but remains just as evident in the way we sauce our creations, both elegant and fundamental. In the second edition of Sauces, released seven years after the first, the "we" has expanded beyond Frenchmen and their disciples, and now includes the broader range of flavors experienced by Italians as pasta sauces, as well as New World cooks and their counterparts in the Middle East and throughout greater Asia. The solid base from which all this grows, however, remains the lessons learned in the French kitchen--and a better kitchen for such lessons has never been developed.
To cook is one thing, to sauce another. The right sauce lifts the right dish to a wholly different plateau of dining than would be the case if the cook didn't bother. This can be a humble pasta sauce created as a perfect balance of ingredients on hand, or a carefully considered sauce the ingredients of which have been developed at the stove over days, not mere hours.
In the sauce can be seen the reflection of the cook. There is no room to hide. In the well-crafted sauce can be found the ultimate expression of simplicity, which leaves even less room to hide. It is James Peterson's great talent that he can draw the home cook and professional cook into his dialogue on sauces, and teach them both how to stay afloat in such shallow waters.
Peterson gives the reader--in close to 600 pages, mind you--the continuum on which sauces have been based in culinary history. He gives the reader the kitchen science that allows sauces to work. He gives the reader the techniques necessary to follow along where many a cook has already whisked up a splendid creation. But most of all, he gives the reader permission to go ahead and be creative, to cut loose with knowledge and technique in hand and discover for oneself the way an inkling of a flavor idea can find its way to a dish and make the combined ingredients lift off the plate. Or not. Finding out what doesn't work can be just as important.
This is a book that can be taken to bed and savored, page by page, sauce by sauce. It is a book that should be on the shelf in any kitchen, professional or homebody alike. It is not a book to ever gather dust and need dusting. --Schuyler Ingle [via]