Book Review: Alchemy of the Mortar & Pestle – The Culinary Library Volume 1 by D. & P. Gramp

Updated: Jan 16


This is a fun, quick read about the history and importance of the mortar and pestle and its role in human nutrition dating back to ancient civilization. The mortar and pestle are one of the earliest tools developed, even thought to have been in use before man’s discovery of how to make fire. Not only has the mortar and pestle had a pivotal role in human development – without it we would not have been able to grind down whole grains to make flour – but it has stood the test of time and is a tool still found in modern day kitchens. This book also provides a guide on how to choose the correct mortar and pestle for your home kitchen and provides a generous selection of recipes ranging from pesto and curry to ancient alchemy tonics and elixirs (think lotions and herbal remedies).


While the editorial portion of this book is brief (15 pages), I am impressed with how much knowledge is imparted. There is a wonderful guide on how to care for your mortar and pestle as well, which I have doggy-eared for future reference. I also appreciate how this book highlights the historical connection that has existed between food and medicine. While many folks may not venture out and try the tinctures and potions provided in this book (myself included), I find it quite interesting to read through. It reminds me of looking through my grandmother’s old church cookbook that contains recipes of gelatinized aspics and cuts of meat not traditionally used today – it’s like a peak into the past! So, while I won’t make a good chunk of the recipes in this book, there are quite a few I do intend try! I love the idea of methodically making a pesto or a spice blend in a way that will release flavor that is not achievable by using a food processor or blender. It is a refreshing reminder that you do not need any fancy, expensive kitchen tools to achieve great flavor in your food.


Overall, I’m happy to have this little book on hand. It’s a great reference for mortar and pestle choosing, care, and uses. I would say if you have ever thought about picking up a mortar and pestle of your own, go for it! What do you have to lose? You can find fine options for under $20, much more affordable than investing in a food processor – and this book will help be your guide to mortar and pestle success!


Rating: 4/5 stars

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