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Monday, March 1, 2021


* 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 –
5.RUSTICA; delicious recipes for village-style Mediterranean food (Ryland Peters & Small, 2020, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-280-6 $27.95 hardbound) is by Theo Michaels, a BBC MasterChef UK competitor who has now authored five cookbooks and cooks professionally while making appearances on UK TV. Here Michaels encourages us to eat like a villager, which means consuming veggies, fruit, nuts, grains, pulses, and fish/seafood. At the same time, meat consumption is cut back and so is food waste. So this is a rustic cuisine full of delights such as chamomile gelato, Greek walnut cake, roasted radicchio, tomato panzanella, parmesan polenta, and oven roasted hake on citrusy greens. It is all straightforward with chapters following food courses, from breakfast through desserts, although he does make a diversion through lighter dishes for summer and warming food for winter. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89.
6.EATING FOR PLEASURE, PEOPLE, & PLANET (Interlink Books, 2020, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-62371-953-1 $49.95 hardbound) is by Tom Hunt, an award-winning British chef (Poco), writer, and food waste expert offering no-waste recipes. His book deals with plant-rich, zero waste, climate cuisine. He's also a director or member of several food associations which deal with hunger and poverty. Here his message is basically "eat well, waste nothing", concentrating on sustainable diets for everyday cooking that consider how we farm, trade, eat, and dispose of food. The first part of the book (in 50 pages) deals with a roots-to-fruit manifesto for eating for pleasure, eating whole foods, and eating the best food you can (better farming, Fairtrade). The recipes are divided into morning meals, slow food fast at lunch and dinner, family meals, feats plates, new ways with salads, and sweet treats. At the end there is a "roots-to-fruit" pantry: aquafaba, green sauces, umami powders, kombucha, stocks, barley water, pickles and preserves, apple cider vinegars, bread and pastries, and plant-based milks. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 90.

Your health depends on my health. We cannot escape one another in these perilous times.

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