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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some Informative Cookbooks

HOMEMADE SODA (Storey Publishing, 2011, 329 pages, ISBN 978-1-60342-
796-8, $18.95 US paper covers) is by Andrew Schloss, author or co-
author of 15 cookbooks, and an IACP Cookbook Award winner (The Science
of Good Food). It is one of the few unique foodbooks published in 2011:
here are 200 recipes for making and using fruit sods and fizzy juices,
root beers, colas, herbal waters, shrubs, cream sodas and floats.
Everything here is carbonated. Says Schloss, "Making sodas at home is
an excellent way to reduce tour consumption of high-fructose corn
syrup, and to moderate your sugar intake in general: you brew only what
you'll drink, and you can adjust the sweetness of the brew to your own
taste." There's a brief history of sparkling waters and concoctions,
various timelines for commercial [products, ingredient lists, equipment
needed, and storage issues. There are three ways to make soda – mix
seltzer water, use a soda siphon, or brew root beers and colas. This is
followed by the recipe and a few "soda food" preps, e.g. lemonade
shrimp cocktail, sweet heat mahogany chicken wings, cola chili, baked
root beer ham, and other foods which strike me as very meaty and very
male-appealing. There are also some desserts and a resources page.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: sparkling water fans, summer eaters.
Some interesting or unusual recipe: balsamic date soda; ginseng soda;
applale (apple cider); vanilla pear sparkler; iced café brulot;
chocolate raspberry cream pop.
The downside to this book: although not advertised as such, this is
really a guy foodbook.
The upside to this book: many recipes are adaptable to alcoholic
beverages, such as sparkling lemon Campari.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
4. TOMATOLAND; how modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most
alluring fruit (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011; distr. Simon &
Schuster, 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-4494-0109-2, $19.99 US hard covers) is
by Barry Estabrook, a James Beard Award-winning food investigative
journalist who wrote for Eating Well, Gourmet, The Atlantic, and
others. Log rollers include Ruth Reichl, Jacques Pepin, and Corby
Portions of this book have appeared in different form in Gourmet,
Gastronomica, Saveur, and the Washington Post. His book grew out of
some investigative articles published in those sources (including his
Beard Award winning "Politics of the Plate: the price of a tomato" in
Gourmet of March 2009), whereby Estabrook looked at human and
environmental costs of the $10 billion US fresh tomato industry. For
example, fields can be sprayed with 130 different herbicides and
pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and gassed until their
skins begin to turn red. While modern plant breeding may have tripled
yields, the fruits produced contained a much smaller amount of calcium
and vitamin A and C. At the same time, the plants now have three times
as much sodium as before. So "Tomatoland" is principally about
supermarket tomatoes and how they impact our lives. He begins with the
first tomatoes (Peruvian deserts) up through the tomato capital of the
US (Immokalee, Florida). He covers labs striving to produce great
tomatoes for agribusiness, how hydroponic growers function, and the
secrets of organic farming.
Audience and level of use: conspiracy lovers; agribusiness antagonists;
food lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: 90% of US home gardeners
grow tomatoes, and his article in Gourmet garnered the most reader
response of any of the magazine's articles in the previous decade.
The downside to this book: there are a lot of interviews rather than
hard core studies.
The upside to this book: there's an index, end notes and a bibliography
for further reading.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.

5. THE RIPPLE EFFECT; the fate of freshwater in the twenty-first
century (Scribner, 2011; distr. Simon and Schuster, 435 pages, ISBN
978-1-4165-3545-4, $27 US hard covers) is by Alex Prud'homme, an
investigative writer for a variety of magazines. His books have been
about the ImClone scandal and terrorism/security. He had also
collaborated with his great-aunt Julia Child on her "My Life in
France". And there is a connection: Child made a comment about bottled
water that stuck with him and sent him on his way to look into the
whole matter of freshwater. Here he tackles freshwater (drinking,
agriculture). It's a story about the use and abuse of water. He
explores what's dangerous in our water supply, the security of our
supply system (terrorism, natural disasters), and then potential for
water wars. Water rights have been a contention for centuries. There
were the water wars in Los Angeles, the diversion to the Colorado
River, polluted shores and lakes (mostly from sewage being mixed with
water), drug disposal and waste in the water supply, acid rain, global
climate change, overpopulation, drought, flood, underground pipes and
levees, and more. All we need was the Milagro Beanfield war to make it
complete. But there are some stories here, mostly American, that
involve microcosms (that can add up) – alleged murders in New Jersey,
salmon fishermen in Alaska, poisoned wells in Wisconsin, intersex fish
in Chesapeake Bay.
Audience and level of use: the concerned environmentalist
Some interesting or unusual facts: In USA, regulatory approval for a
new water pipeline is the key to promoting real estate development.
The downside to this book: I wished he had some ideas on how to correct
The upside to this book: copious end notes.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.

6. LOBSTER (Reaktion Books, 2011, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-86189-795-4,
$19.95 US soft covers) is by Richard J. King, who teaches in Literature
of the Sea at the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and
Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. It is part of the "Animal" series from
Reaktion Books in the UK. At the same time, the publisher put out one
of the "Edible" series, LOBSTER; a global history (Reaktion Books,
2011, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-86189-794-7, $15.95 US hard covers), which
is by Elisabeth Townsend, a Massachusetts-based food and wine writer.
"Lobster" had long been thought of as peasant food. Those living by the
ocean had to eat it, to the shame and mortification of those poorer
students who were forced to eat lobster sandwiches for lunch in the
school cafeteria. They were laughed at. Now lobsters are big ticket
items, although coast dwellers still remember their penurious
beginnings. The Townsend book, which deals with lobster-as-food, is a
good account of the social history of global lobster eating. The King
book is an equally fascinating coconut of lobster-as-animal. He does
have a number of references to lobster-as-food, usually within the
context of culture or lobster festivals, but there is only one actual
recipe with ingredients and instructions (for lobster stew). There are
biological details, economic and environmental status reports, ethic
issues revolving around boiling them alive, cultural notes on
aphrodisiacs, plus lobsters in the arts. The two books form a useful
duo of reads, with little duplication.
Audience and level of use: lobster lovers, culinary historians.
Some interesting or unusual facts: the American lobster is the best-
tasting lobster, and most come from the Maritimes and Maine.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
7. DISHING IT OUT; in search of the restaurant experience (Reaktion
Books, 2011; distr. U of Chicago Pr, 285 pages, ISBN 978-1-86189-807-4,
$35 US hard covers) is by Robert Applebaum, a lecturer in Renaissance
studies who specializes in the relationship of literature, culture and
food. He argues that restaurants promote the interests of cultural
democracy. He searches for such social values by sampling the fare at
Catalonian bistros, Italian-American chophouses, global fast-food
joints, and Michelin-starred restos of haute cuisine. Along the way,
Applebaum examines cultural history and the origins of the modern
restaurant in pre-revolutionary France. He covers writers who do food
(Sartre and Dinesen) and food writers (Grimod de la Reyniere and M.F.K.
Fisher). He is constantly asking : what is a restaurant?
Audience and level of use: foodies, gastronomic historians.
Some interesting or unusual facts: a restaurant is a public, commercial
eating house offering individualized service. People are both part of a
crowd and personally singled out.
The downside to this book: while an important contribution to
gastronomic history, the book was slow reading at many points.
The upside to this book: there are end notes and an extensive
bibliography for further readings.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
8. JAMS & JELLIES IN LESS THAN 30 MINUTES (Gibbs Smith, 2011; distr.
Raincoast, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-1871-3, $16.99 US hard covers) is
by Pamela Bennett, who has been making and selling jams, etc. for the
past 25 years. She also owned Dallas' Black Sheep Baskets which sold
her jams. The emphasis here, of course, is speed: these are small-batch
refrigerator jams that will last 3 – 4 weeks in the fridge. The 55
preps can also be turned into meat marinades, sauces, and sundae
toppings. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents on the last
page. They are listed by category, such as berry jams, fruit preserves,
tropical preps, herb and savoury spreads (onion jam, jalapeno jelly,
lavender jam, beet jelly), and jellies from juice and wine (ginger
jelly, lime jelly, champagne jelly). Quality/price rating: 88.
Audience and level of use: home preservers, the harried cook.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Always make jelly on a clear
day rather than a cloudy or stormy day – weather affects the
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
9. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GRILLING; how to grill just about anything
(Skyhorse Publishing, 2011, 250 pages, ISBN 978-1-61608-067-9, $14.95
US paper covers) is by Rick Browne, a food writer specializing in BBQ
(The Ultimate Guide to Frying, The Big Book of Barbecue Sides). It's an
all-purpose BBQ book, with a healthy dose of macho attitude. It seems
like a safe purchase for that male in your life. There's a section on
lamb, which is offered without comments. Yet there are anecdotes and
stories for the other meats such as lobster and pork. I understand that
Western Kentucky specializes in lamb BBQ, so there is a market for such
a book or section. Chapters cover appetizers, beef, fish, shellfish,
lamb, pork, poultry, side dishes, sauces, marinades, veggies, game,
desserts and rubs. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: the male BBQer, such as my son.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: bourbon salmon, grilled
lemon-lime tempeh, Thai lamb kebobs, Assyrian grilled leg of lamb with
pomegranate sauce.
The downside to this book: the typeface is slim, making it hard to
The upside to this book: another basic book directed to males.
Quality/Price Rating: 84.

10. BREAKFAST COMFORTS (Weldon Owen, 2010; distr. Simon & Schuster, 224
pages, ISBN 978-1-61628-070-3, $34.95 US hard covers) is by Rick
Rodgers, a food writer who has also authored or co-authored at least 10
other books for Williams-Sonoma. This book is one of a large series of
books published by Williams-Sonoma. It is a combo book, with preps from
Rodgers and others from breakfast-brunch restaurants around the USA.
There's about 16 of these listed. Café Pasqual's in Santa Fe would be
my favourite (hey – I've been there). There are pix of some of the
places, as well as a short text outlining their history and philosophy.
Rodger's has about 100 recipes of his own plus nostalgic preps from
these other restaurants (showcasing regional cuisine). Preparations
have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Just about all the
classics are here.
Audience and level of use: brunch lovers
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: lemon-ricotta pancakes;
banana-chocolate crepes; Philly cheesecake omelet; cream-currant
scones; cheese soufflé; pork and sage sausage patties.
The downside to this book: the book weighs a lot.
The upside to this book: the index is extensive.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
11. FRENCH FRIES (Gibbs Smith, 2011; distr. Raincoast, 128 pages, ISBN
978-1-4236-0744-1, $16.99 US hard covers) is by Zac Williams, a food
photographer who has also written "Little Monsters Cookbook".
Unfortunately, the book seems to have been released just at the time
that scientific reports were filed alluding to French fries and potato
chips being the number one causes of weight gain over 20 years of a
person's life. Nevertheless, if you can tolerate high fat and carbs,
this is the book for you. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Williams uses the "two-fry" method, to ensure crispness on the outside
and fluffiness on the inside. There are some preps here for oven baking
and the like. There are also 25 pages of dips and sauces. While there
are two oven recipes indexed, the main prep for oven fries is not
Audience and level of use: those who enjoy French fries
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: sweet potato fries, Cajun
fries, Philly cheese fries.
The downside to this book: there's not much to say about French fries.
The upside to this book: a single-product book. What makes the book are
the sauces and technique.
Quality/Price Rating: 83.
12. BACKCOUNTRY COOKING; the ultimate guide to planning, preparing, and
packing great outdoor meals (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011, 238 pages, ISBN
978-1-61608-312-0, $14.95 US paper covers) is by Sierra Adare, a how-to
outdoors specialist who writes for Mother Earth News and several
newspapers. This is a comprehensive package, which ends with a
bibliography for further reading. The original subtitle was announced
as "feats for hikers, hoofers, and floaters", but the current one is
more descriptive and accurate. About 100 recipes are scattered
throughout, keyed into menu patterns for each day of a trip. For
example, Day Nine Menus includes a breakfast of shorts (dehydrated
ground beef), coffee, with a Trail Lunch of cheese, assorted crackers,
apricots, cashews and M & Ms. Dinner is Tent Stake Turkey and Snow
Drifts (dried raisins). All food is prepared in advance and bagged.
There are five trips here, with marching orders for all: a 10 day trip,
a 7 day, a 5 day, a car-camping for a week, and a river-running for a
week. Everything has been organized for the reader, right down to the
tiniest detail. There are lists of grocery items you buy beforehand,
instructions on how to dehydrate your own food, how to avoid sickness,
etc. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: the not-so-experienced hiker.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: re-hydrate food early in the
day, in order to prepare for the reconstitution process. Re-hydrated
food will cook faster and use less boiled water.
The downside to this book: only time will tell if the sturdy binding
will indeed t=stand up to multiple usage.
The upside to this book: very nicely crafted with lots of notes, tips,
and advice.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
13. THE ART OF BREAKFAST; how to bring B & B entertaining home (Down
East Books, 2011; distr. Nimbus, 159 pages, ISBN 978-0-89272-940-1,
$28.95 hard covers) is by Dana Moos, a former innkeeper who is now a
Maine realtor selling B & Bs. Here is a collection of some 100 Maine-
inspired preps, suitable for "entertaining" guests or clients. There is
a collection of sweet entrees, savoury entrees, baked goods, side
dishes, plus the usual sauces-syrups-butters. Some emphasis is given to
seasonal and local Maine food products. At the end, there are ideas for
guest gifts and eight menus (both sections with page references).
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: b & b owners and brunch lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: rum raisin pears; cantaloupe
with green tea-infused minted syrup; blueberry apricot cheese crepes;
Maine blueberry malted Belgian waffles; fried eggs on wild mushroom
hash; cinnamon buns.
The downside to this book: some of the preps seem too complicated or
involved for a b & b operation.
The upside to this book: page references are given for menus and gifts.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.

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