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Sunday, November 17, 2013

THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... 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 –

BEST RECIPES EVER, v2 (Transcontinental Books, 2013, 256 pages, ISBN
978-1-927632-00-0, $26.95 CAN soft covers) is from the CBC and Canadian
Living Magazine. The book's been labeled "more fresh, fun & tasty
tested-till-perfect recipes from the hit show." This daily CBC show,
chef-hosted by Christine Tizzard, has been given full access to the
Canadian Living recipe library. Two or three preps are done each day.
The book is another collection of recipes from the show (seasons 3 and
4), covering a range of preps for all occasions such as breakfasts,
weekend dinners, weeknight dinners, "on the go" and more. It is
straight forward, with nutritional information and tips/advice. Each
prep generally has a plated photo. There are about 100 recipes, with
such as salmon fillets with ginger soy, strawberry mascarpone pizza,
curried lentil, turkey and rapini fusilli, or rhubarb banana crumble.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements
and metric weights, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Check
out for more.
Quality/price rating: 86.

A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES (Little, Brown, 2013, 360 pages, ISBN
978-0-316-22997-5, $35 US hard covers) is by William Sitwell, UK food
writer, editor and TV presenter. An earlier version of the book was
published in the UK in 2012 by Collins, but Little Brown took it on for
the North American market. It's an essential book in popular culinary
history, for he lays out a path from Ancient Egyptian bread (about 1958
BC) through 100 chapters ending at Meat fruit (foie gras & chicken
liver parfait) in 2011. The former is assumed from historical writings
while the latter is from Heston Blumenthal. Each chapter gets a prep
(they are in chronological order), with a title of a dish sourced from
a book somewhere. Chapter 52 is Welsh rarebit, from a recipe of Charles
Francatelli (A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes), done in
three lines. Sitwell explains who Francatelli was and how he came to
write his book, and what the food world was like in 1852. Most chapters
also have an illustration or two. Many of the recipes are vague
approximations, and you'll need to know what you are doing for some
them. But I think the intent is the story behind the prep and why it
was chosen, and not to actually make, say, roly-poly jam pudding
(1861). Modern day contributions come from Gourmet magazine, Emeril
Lagasse, Thomas Keller (salmon tartare), Nigella Lawson, Ferran Adria,
Jamie Oliver, and Mario Batali.  Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. There's a bibliography for food history books plus some
websites. Sitwell has written an informative, enjoyable, easy-to-read
book, well worth your attention. Quality/price rating: 91.

STREETEATS TORONTO (Whitecap, 2013, 102 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050185-0,
$14.95 paper covers) is by Suresh Doss, publisher of He helped to launch Food Truck Eats, dedicated to
raising the profile of street food. It's a guidebook, with,
unfortunately, no recipes. It is in directory format with a list of
some 40 food carts and trucks. Each has a profile of the vendor behind
each cart, some top picks (usually three) for the best dishes to order,
photos, social media to connect (website/twitter/facebook), and some
details about local regional food festivals in this GTA area. This is
the first book in the new series StreetEats, which I assume will be
rolling out through the year to cover Montreal, Vancouver, etc. We
still have a long way to go to catch up with Portland. For the moment,
try for locations. One piece of advice to
Whitecap: put in the occasional recipe – it would be helpful.
Quality/price rating: 88.
FROSTINGS (Gibbs Smith, 2013, 96 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3195-8, $19.99
US hard covers) is by Courtney Dial Whitmore, founder of which deals with party planning. She's also a food and
recipe developer for large companies such as ConAgra and Pepperidge
Farm. And she's been on TV all over the dial. Here there are 40 recipes
for traditional frostings as well as contemporary flavour combos such
as salted caramel and chai vanilla bean. You'll need a mixer and a
piping bag (or make your own), plus her tips and comments. These are
the finishing touches for cakes, s'more, doughnuts, cookies, and any
other platforms. Actually, there are 26 "frostings" plus six ganaches
and eight glazes – same type of sugary covering. There's a resources
page for extract purchases, cake stands, and decorations, but
unfortunately, NO index. There is an expanded table of contents, but
not an ingredients index. Plenty of white space to develop
one…Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 82.
PALEO COOKBOOK FOR DUMMIES (John Wiley, 2013, 317 pages, ISBN 978-1-
118-61155-5, $22.99 US paper covers) is by Kellyann Petrucci, a
chiropractor who has certification in various nutritional areas and who
has written many books and blog entries on paleo foods. She also runs a
paleo food delivery service and appears on national US TV. Here are 136
simple and tasty paleo recipes for every meal of the day. They have
been contributed by other chefs (all sourced) and re-tested along with
additional nutrition information. Prep times and cooking times are
indicated, as well as yields. Try Czech meatballs, stuffed bell
peppers, chocolate chip cookies, coconut shrimp, garlic scampi, Thai
rolled omelette, and machacado with eggs. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. The book goes into good detail with the usual
Dummies flair and top-ten lists. Quality/price rating: 88.

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