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Author Archive: "Edward Lee"

How to Clarify Butter: A Writer’s Tale

Chefs don't have time to write. While I was working on Smoke and Pickles, I was running a restaurant — a daily regimen of testing recipes, arguing with purveyors, and greeting guests that left little time for introspection. I wrote nights mostly, battling fatigue and the impending noise of sunrise. During the day, I gravitated to tasks so deeply ingrained in the muscle-memory of my hands that I could let my brain focus on my book . The most Zen-like of these tasks was clarifying butter.

As a young chef in New York, I worked for a French guy who insisted I make clarified butter from scratch every morning. As a result, I find few things in life as peaceful as the steady, repetitive motion of that task. I can do it for hours, a hundred pounds' worth, all the while organizing an essay in my head, oblivious to the passing of time. Toward the end of writing my book, I felt like I couldn't finish a chapter without clarifying butter. It resulted in a book I'm proud of — and more clarified butter than even my restaurants could ...

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