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Cookbook Watch

November 18, 1998|LAURIE OCHOA

Has Barbara Kafka finally written a noncontroversial cookbook? Her book "Roasting: A Simple Art" incited what passes for mayhem in the food world when she declared that 500 degrees was the perfect temperature for roasting just about everything. And her earlier "Microwave Gourmet" at first had food snobs wondering how anyone could take the microwave oven seriously, then had them sneaking a few of her recipes into their party repertoires. We won't even talk about the flap over her technique for deep-frying in the microwave. Let's just say she's collected a passionate band of fans and foes over the years.

In her newest book, "Soup: A Way of Life" (Artisan, $35), Kafka tackles a seemingly safe subject. She even spends the first chapter charming us with stories about her childhood and early career; she connects each soup recipe in that chapter to a memory about an important person in her life.

On a first look, there appear to be only good recipes and good reading about soup, nothing to inflame the food wags. But you never know. Maybe someone will take issue with the fact that Kafka likes her stews soupy, not thick, or that she includes a black-bean soup recipe in which the beans are not soaked. Some might question the fact that she adds file powder before the end of cooking her gumbo. But maybe it's just time to relax and enjoy the soup.

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