...charts the beautiful winding path that led the author from rural Minnesota to high-stakes Michelin-starred restaurants in New York—in search of what she thought was culinary sophistication—and then back to Minnesota, and a cabin in the woods built by her artist husband ... The author makes even [the familiar] passages memorable with her attention to the sensory world of these kitchens ... Ms. Thielen shows us it is not always easy; it is often less than glamorous; it is raw, a little ugly, but as honest as it gets.
[Thielen] can write, engagingly and vividly ... Food images abound, in all their sensory glory. You’ll drool over 'silken scarves of hot squash puree' or 'a plush little leek dumpling, its browned face shining with butter.' To test a roast beef’s doneness you slip inside its 'darkened side door' and 'put your thumb on its needs.' Serious cooks might lament the book’s lack of recipes, but Thielen also has a cookbook and a TV show.
Thielen doesn’t let the numbers get her down, even as the industry’s inherent sexism — from both men and women — garnishes her wages ... I love that Thielen brings respect to Midwestern regional dishes, largely ignored on the coasts ... my one complaint about this book: I wish Thielen had studded it with recipes, or perhaps stocked them at the end in an extra chapter, like a digestif. As is, the book served to whet my tongue (as well as my knives).