for your various enjoyments, i am going to type up sections of part 1, "the how-to of bread baking". i especially recommend reading this out loud in some manner of silly accent.
Baking is not an art, it is an act of creation. This is not to say that the baker is an artist, for, again, baking is not an art. But in the act of creating a bread, an honest loaf, an object with a presence, a fragrance, a substance, a taste, some would say even a soul, the baker has changed grain and flour and liquid into an entity. She or he has taken yeast, a dormant colony of living plants, and released and nurtured them in embryonic warmth, has sprinkled in sugar on which yeast thrives, has sifted in flour that builds the cellular elastic structure that holds the tiny carbon dioxide bubbles that raise the framework of the house called BREAD. And in that house is love, and warmth, and nourishment, and comfort, and care, and caring, and taking care, and time gone by, and time well spent, and things natural, and things good, and honest toil, and work without thought of reward, and all of those things once had, now lost in a county and a world that has rushed by itself and passed itself, running, and never noticed its loss.
What Do You Need to Know Before you Begin to Bake?
Nothing. That is to say ... everything. That is to say ... oneself. If you want to bake, bake, and you will bake well. But if you go beyond desire and on to love, if you become aware of the bread growing under your hands like a child ... if you knead the dough, if you pat it and care for it and nurture it, if you become the father and mother of the bread, you will bake magnificiently.
I have baked over 300 different varieties of bread in the past year and have had only one fauilure. I dropped a partially baked Easter Bread on its head and so traumatized it that it couldn't rise, although I'm sure it tried. The bread does what bread can do. You must do the rest.
[skip a few chapters]
The longing of the visitor who has actually known France, who has experienced her wonders, is a deep and consuming one. We are gastronomic sailors with the siren song of "La Belle" luring us inexorably back to the bouquet of satisfactions that is France.
i'm sick of typing now, but i hope you can see why this is such a joy. i'll also note that the chapter on asian cooking is "oriental wisdom in a bowl".