FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS IN REVIEW FOR JANUARY 2018 [published monthly since 2000]
By Dean Tudor, Gothic Epicures Writing, email@example.com
Creator of Canada's leading wine satire site at http://fauxvoixvincuisine.blogspot.ca
These food and wine book reviews are always available at www.deantudor.com and http://gothicepicures.blogspot.ca
But first, these words:
Most prices listed below are in US currency as printed on the cover. I do this because MOST of my readers are American. CAN prices are inserted for Canadian produced books. In these times of US-Canadian currency fluctuations about parity AND online bookstore discount (plus the addition of GST or HST) prices will vary upwards or downwards every day.
ALLEZ CUISINE!! [even though it has been a short month's worth of books]
* FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS
1.THE BOOKLOVERS' GUIDE TO WINE (Books and Books Press, 2017, 390 pages, ISBN 978-1-63353-606-7 $19.95 USD paperbound) is by Patrick Alexander who teaches a six week program at Books & Books in Coral Gables Florida. He's done it for the past six years, so he put out his "notes" in book form. It's an introduction to the history, mysteries, and literary pleasures of drinking wine. He's got a nifty literate accompaniment to the traditional wine and food pairings. It's a global wine tour, with pairings such as Charles Dickens with cabernet sauvignon, Jane Austen with chardonnay, Shakespeare with sherry (Falstaff's dry sack), and JRR Tolkien with albarino (the newest hot white grape from Portugal and Spain). Very entertaining package that begins with tasting wine, making wine, wine history, continues with old world and new world (Canada gets icewine, but not in the index), grape varieties, and food matches. Reference material includes lists of Bordeaux appellations, the Grand Crus of Burgundy, and the standings in the two 1976 Judgment of Paris smackdowns.
Audience and level of use: beginning wine lovers, millennials.
Some interesting or unusual facts: "I can see you that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn't know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret" - John Cleese as Basil Fawlty.
The downside to this book: it arrived too late for my annual holiday book gift issue.
The upside to this book: very readable account. More details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.
* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK...
...is one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such proliferation. They are automatic best sellers, since the book can be flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But because most of these books are American, they use only US volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out. The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks". There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work at home, but how could that be? The books all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a lot of food photo shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other celebrities in magnificent cases of logrolling. If resources are cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –
2.THE PLAGIARIST IN THE KITCHEN (Unbound, 2017, 176 pages, ISBN 9781783522408, $42.95 CAD hardbound) is by the redoubtable Jonathan Meades, the UK journalist, TV personality, and filmmaker who also specializes in food. He says that this book will be the only cookbook he will ever write. Meanwhile, as this book does exist, it is his take in praise of the unoriginal recipe. Very very entertaining and provocative. It was funded by readers through the writer website "Unbound". You pledge for it in advance, and it gets published once it receives critical mass. This particular title was distributed in Canada by Penguin Random House. He says it "is an anti-cookbook, a recipe book that is also an explicit paean to the avoidance of culinary originality, to the daylight robbery of recipes, to hijacking techniques and methods, to the notion that in the kitchen there is nothing new and nor can there be anything new. It's all theft." So: ultimately, it is a basic book of workable standard classic recipes with his pithy and enlightening comments. Because it is British, it is all in metric, with no tables of equivalents or conversion charts. There is a an index, plus four pages of three columns each which feature the names of contributors/subscribers. There is a short bibliography of "books referred to" and presumably borrowed from. Most of the books are old, and most of the authors have since passed on. So there. The book could have been improved if it also used US volume measurements in the recipes; this would improve sales in the last remaining country on the planet to ignore metric. Quality/price rating: 88.
3.RETRO RECIPES FROM THE '50S AND '60S (St. Martin's Griffin, 2017, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-14632-8 $19.99 US paperbound) is by Addie Gundry, a chef who has worked for Boulud, Keller, Stewart, et al in management, restaurant openings, editorial, brand development. She also won a cooking match on the Food Network. Here she give us 104 vintage appetizers, dinners and drinks from the past – 60 years ago. She also has some historical notes, such as sourcing the first printed recipe for a party cheese ball to the Minneapolis Star-Journal in 1944. Or the brunch stalwart Monte Cristo, first offered in southern California in the 1950s. This is the stuff that North Americans grew up with at that time, the food that millennial grandparents ate at home. Yes, people ate at home then, in families gathered around the table with no phones, TV sets, or other distractions. Expect "classics" such as crab puffs, shrimp cocktail, meatloaf, cheese fondue, deviled eggs, quiche, SOS, Waldorf salad, ambrosia salad, grasshopper pie, and more. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 87.
4.STIRRING SLOWLY (Square Peg, 2016, 280 pages, ISBN 978-0-22410165-3 $42.95 CA hardbound) is by Georgina Hayden, a food writer who worked in the kitchens with Jamie Oliver for a decade. And of course it comes with an endorsing foreword by Oliver. The book was originally published in late 2016 but is now available to the North American market via Penguin Random House. It is a basic book on comforting food for those who love to cook, that is, the preps are not slapped together just before consumption and the preps are nourishing and healing as well. Major topics include bowl food, quick & light, slow & hearty, veggies, and baking. Meat is included. Typical dishes include chilled avocado soup with ginger, Jerusalem artichoke with thyme barley risotto, caraway honey and buttermilk buns, sticky harissa carrots and beets with dates, pomegranate chicken skewers, chorizo and tomato and chickpeas on toast, and green chili greens with cashews. One my faves is "pho for one". Readers of my reviews know I excoriate publishers for lack of metric data, but in this case, the book could have been improved if it also used avoirdupois in the recipes, or at least had a conversion chart for the American market. Quality/price rating: 87.
5.CANADA'S CULINARY HERITAGE (Klorifil Editions, 2017, 229 pages, ISBN 978-2-9810783-7-7 $39.95 CA hardbound) is a publisher's collection of some 100 recipes from 100 celebrities in celebration for Canada 150, for the benefit of Breakfast Club of Canada (and helping to provide 165,000 daily breakfasts to children). Too bad they couldn't make it 150 recipes since it is Canada 150, but of course that would have increased the price. Preps are divided into apps, entrees, "this and that" and desserts. There is an index to personalities and their contributions, which includes k.d.lang (Canadian s'more), Premier Kathleen Wynne's ginger snaps, Lisa Laflamme's family cheesecake, Susur Lee's Singaporean style slaw, Lynne Crawford's honey whiskey glazed chicken, Ron James' moose meat marinade, Brian Orser's beer can chicken, and Wayne Gretzky's grandmother's perogies. An interesting mosaic of Canadian food. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
6.CULINARY TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD (Klorifil Editions, 2017, 213 pages, ISBN 978-2-9810783-5-3 $39.95 CA hardbound) is a publisher's collection of some 92 recipes from 92 countries in celebration for Canada 150, for the benefit of Hire – Embauche Immigrants Ottawa. The source materials are authentic recipes from diplomats posted in Canada. From Afghanistan (kabuli palau) to Vietnam (fowl congee), with stops along the way for Estonian Lenten breads, Indian samosa, Italian panforte margherita, Jamaican ackee and saltfish, South Korean kimchi, Peruvian ceviche and Egyptian fattah. Another interesting mosaic of food that immigrants bring to Canada. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
7.HOW TO ROAST EVERYTHING (America's Test Kitchen, 2018, 406 pages, ISBN 978-1-945256-22-6 $35 US hardbound) is from the creative team at the TV show America's Test Kitchen. It is also a guide to building flavour into meat, veggies, fruit, and other roasted items. Like all the ATK books, it is a definitive reference tool There are many years of experiences here. The primer start with roasting basics and then moves on to "ten essential roasts", which is just about the most that regular people at home would do: these are the classics of bone-in chicken breasts, butterflied chicken, roast chicken, roast turkey breast, roast beef with gravy, slow-roasted beef, roasted pork tenderloin, glazed pork roast, roasted bone-in pork rib roast, and roasted salmon fillets. Plus some 15 variations of rubs and sauces. But no leg of lamb, or any lamb roast. You'll have to see the pork & lamb chapter for that, and there are just a half dozen. The really engaging chapters deal with grill roasting, veggies and fruits. It's a well-priced nifty book full of details, tips, and photos, and includes the equipment needed – the usual ATK approach. The book could have been improved and have had wider sales if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least it had metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 89.
* THE REISSUES, THE REPRINTS, AND THE NEWER EDITIONS...
...all reflect a boom in the cookbook publishing business. A paperback reprint will lower the cost to the purchaser, and also give a publisher a chance to correct egregious errors or add a postscript. Some will reissue a book in paper covers with a new layout or photos. Others will rearrange existing material to present it as more informative text while keeping the focus tight. Some magazines will reissue popular or classic recipes in an "easy" format. Here are some recent "re-editions"...
8.THE QUINTESSENTIAL QUINOA COOKBOOK; eat great, lose weight, feel healthy (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011, 2018, 223 pages, ISBN 978-1-5107-2223-1, $14.99US papercovers) is by Wendy Polisi, with photos and nutritional info for every recipe, gluten-free desserts, and quinoa recipes for kids. It's a reissue of the 2011 book with updates. She's given alternative ingredients and prep methods for many dishes, including vegan, sugar-free, and quick and easy. She's got two recipes for gluten-free flour blends – an all-purpose quinoa flour blend and a quinoa cake flour blend. These can be used without fear. The book is arranged by course, breakfast through apps and snacks, salads, wraps and tacos and sandwiches, mains, baking and desserts. About 100 dishes are here, but there is more at www.cookbookquinoa.net. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Some interesting preps include quinoa pizza; broccoli quinoa salad; Mediterranean lettuce cups; and smoked chile rellenos. Quality/Price Rating: 89.
9.ROSE MURRAY'S COMFORTABLE KITCHEN COOKBOOK. Rev. ed. (Whitecap, 1991, 2018, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050301-4 $29.95 CAD paper covers) is by Rose Murray, a Taste Canada Hall of Famer and award-winning food writer appearing in print (over 10 cookbooks and scores of articles) and broadcasting in both radio and TV. It was originally published in 1991 (McGraw-Hill Ryerson). As the subtitle notes, this is "easy, feel-good food for family and friends". It's been modernized and with new food shots and layouts. It's an easy going classic for the home cook, with 230 preps, from apps to soups to sides, salads, and desserts, all wrapped around "comforting main courses". Typical dishes include upside-down pear gingerbread, veal and onion ragout with gremolata garnish, dandelion salad, warm lamb salad, wild rice lemon pilaf, homemade BBQ sauce, Thai thighs, cheesy meat loaf, and sweet potato party flan. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. There are multiple recipes on each page, and only a few of the preps have photos – both of which help keep the book's price low. Quality/price rating: 89.
10.FIX-IT AND FORGET-IT COOKBOOK. Revised & updated. (Good Books, 2012, 2018, 702 pages, ISBN 978-1-68099-301-1 $29.99 US hardbound) is by Phyllis Good, who has sold over 12 million such books for the slow cooker. This is a revision of the 2012 book, which was already a revision of an earlier book. Her 2012 book had sold more than 5 million copies, but there are changes and additions here: 100 new recipes for slow cookers; "Prep Time," "Cooking Time," and "Ideal Slow-Cooker Size" are included for each recipe; new data on "Substitute Ingredients for When You're in a Pinch", "Equivalent Measurements", "Kitchen Tools and Equipment; new tips and tricks for making the most of your slow cooker, spread throughout the book; and a revised and improved Index. So here are 700 slow cooker recipes to fulfill every need. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least there is a large type page of metric conversions. Quality/price rating: 88.