Book Title: Empty Bottle Moments: Cooking With Clive
Author: Clive Berkman
Date Published: March 1, 2009
Publisher: Baxter Press (Cooking with Clive)
Genre: Celebrities & TV Shows
ISBN: 978-1888237719
Reviewer: Melissa Moskowitz

Most cookbooks begin with a table of contents to whet the appetite for the recipes within. Clive Berkman’s cookbook starts with the tale of his faith journey towards finding truth and life. This can cause the reader to desire to taste what he has experienced, even if nothing is ever cooked from this book! But of course the recipes beckon you as well, to taste and see that the Lord is good,” and his roasted asparagus salad with ch?vre or wild mushroom ragout in flaky pastry make life all that much more delicious as well.

The title, Creating Empty Bottle Moments, is taken from Mr. Berkman’s belief that while full bottles of wine speak of potential or future, the real story and celebration of life are evidenced when the bottle has been shared and emptied. So in addition to some great recipes, you get a collection of stories about meals enjoyed with others.

When George Bush, Sr. ran for president, Clive was there to cook a celebratory dinner for him and his staff as they watched the votes come in. In fact, the chef presented the newly elected president with a chocolate marquis cake with a red, white and blue candle. The recipes for this “bit of history” dinner are in the cookbook.

There are Super Bowl Sunday recipes, in which the chef encourages the cook to honor the various cities in which the games are played by serving the cuisine of that area (South Texas quail, anyone?). A recipe for eggs Benedict is enhanced by the history given behind the dish, which may have been accidentally invented by a Mr. Benedict to cure his hangover in 1894 at the Waldorf Astoria (the egg was extolled as having “therapeutic effects”).

One of the most poignant chapters is on the Sabbath, a time to connect with loved ones each week. The food need not be Jewish, says Clive; the emphasis should be on what the family and guests love. An unusual recipe for five-hour sticky roast chicken invites even the most nonchalant, weekday cook to try something special.

There are times when the cookbook aims, perhaps, to be too much: a soup pot of philosophy; advice about kitchen equipment and how to shop for the best cuts of beef; admonitions to not lose sight of the real reasons for creating “empty bottle moments” (don’t forget to value the people you’re cooking for). So one might not know where to shelve this book in a home library!

However, the little that can be said to be negative about the book is also a BIG positive. Creating Empty Bottle Moments encourages the beginning cook as well as the seasoned home chef to view meal-making, and all it entails, as an extension of love and a sense of worth to the fortunate ones who will gather around the table. Moments such as these really do help us to reflect on the “goodness of God.”

 

Creating Empty Bottle Moments is available at www.cookingwithclive.com