Bill Buford hurts my head. That’s really my first thought when I try to size up the book Heat, An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
He hurts my head because he may well be obsessive-compulsive, and the book is really the literary equivalent of a man obsessed, grabbing the reader by the hand and dragging them off on some wild goose chase in search of knowledge that no one cares about. Well, except Bill Buford.
I’m guessing that most people picked this book up because of Buford’s links to celebrity chef Mario Batali. Buford convinces the chef to give him what is basically an apprenticeship (Bill works for free to learn the ropes) in his flagship restaurant Babbo, and the writer documents his journey through the back of house. There are a few dirt-digging scenes to keep the Batali fans amused; one describes Batali digging through the garbage bin and pulling up celery tops and peelings, insisting they can be used for a soup; but the story is ultimately about Buford himself.