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Friday, July 31, 2020

* 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 –
7.DELISH INSANE SWEETS: bake yourself a little crazy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019, 238 pages, ISBN 978-0-358-19334-9 $22.99 USD hardbound) is by Joanna Saltz and The Editors of Delish. Saltz is the Editorial Director and author of Delish: Eat Like Everyday's the Weekend; Delish is a fast-growing food media brand on the Internet. Here are 130 recipes of sinful desserts, none of them guilt-free. So they are put out there for you...Chapters are sorted by categories such as cookies, brownies, bars, cupcakes, blondies, "giants", and Christmas. Lots of colourful, decorative photos. But the book could have been improved if it had also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart.
Audience and level of use: sugar freaks; millennials
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: death by chocolate cookies, and brownies; inside-out red velvet cookies; s'mores skillet cookie; giant oreo cake; mini eggnog cheesecakes; oatmeal fudge bars.
The downside to this book: no Bakewells (neither tart or pudding).
The upside to this book: great rush of sugar hits.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
8.THE GAIJIN COOKBOOK: Japanese recipes from a chef, father, eater and lifelong outsider (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019, 256 pages, ISBN  978-1-328-95435-0 $30 USD hardbound) is by Ivan Orkin (author of Ivan Ramen and a TV chef, plus ownership of two restaurants in NYC) and Chris Ying (co-founder of Lucky Peach). "Gaijin" is an outsider to Japan. This is a book of really good Japanese home-cooked foods. He's got a pantry and an ingredient list, plus a contents listing of the recipes by category (such as "rice dishes and dishes to eat over rice", broth and stews, apps, entrees to share, hot pots, noodles, bagels and sandwiches). His home preps are divided by chapters, such as "eat more Japanese", "empathy", "geeking out", "good times", and "New Year's". It's a fun book, encouraging us to eat more Japanese food and involving our kids in prepping and feeding. He has a selection of recipes from the vanishing Japanese diner. Fascinating book, well worth a look. It goes beyond teriyaki, yakitori, and soba...for the better.
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: 88

May we all have 2020 vision.

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