Posts Tagged: Foodies Read

2016: The Year that Was

December 29, 2016 Meta 8

WE ARE ALMOST DONE WITH THIS HELL-SPAWNED YEAR, Y’ALL.

Ehem. Sorry about the all caps, it’s just that… well, 2016 has been super weird and not in a cool way, right?

That’s not what this post is about. There are plenty of thinkpieces out there on this topic that are probably more eloquent than I can hope to be on this subject. But really, I’m just happy about finally being able to tell 2016 to get the eff outta here.


This is actually a wrap-up post for 3 different challenges:

Foodies Read

I ended up reading 8 books for Foodies Read this year:

Introductory Post

  1. The Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury — Reviewed 18 June 2016
  2. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson — Reviewed 27 Feburary 2016
  3. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt — Reviewed 31 January 2016
  4. Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm — From Scratch by Lucie Amundsen — Reviewed 9 May 2016
  5. Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack – Reviewed 4 September 2016
  6. Community Cookbooks of West Texas – Special Feature, 19 November 2016

My favorite of these was probably Locally Laid by Lucy Amundsen, but Wine Folly and The Food Lab both tie for a close second — and, of course, the community cookbooks have a special place in my heart.

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks

I didn’t do as well with this project as I’d intended, but I honestly don’t feel TOO bad about this. After all, 10 books is better than 0 books.

Introductory Post

  1. Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury — Reviewed 18 June 2016
  2. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson — Reviewed 27 February 2016
  3. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt — Reviewed 31 January 2016
  4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov — Reviewed 29 January 2016
  5. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall — Reviewed 26 March 2016
  6. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle — Reviewed 22 December 2016
  7. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum — Reviewed 23 December 2016
  8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Reviewed 6 March 2016
  9. Wildlife of the Concho Valley by Terry Maxwell — Reviewed 16 December 2016
  10. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind — Reviewed 13 Feburary 2016

The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt was definitely my favorite of these. Wizard’s First Rule was by far the WORST book I read this year and it makes me mad every time I see it on my bookshelf. (Still debating whether I ought to take it to the used bookshop for credit or just trash it like the true piece of garbage it is.)

Women’s Classic Literature Event

Again, I wish I’d read more books that counted for this project — but again, something is better than nothing, right?

Introductory Post

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – Reviewed 9 July 2016
  2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – Reviewed 2 July 2016
  3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell — Reviewed 19 June 2016
  4. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall — Reviewed 26 March 2016
  5. Middlemarch by George Eliot — Abandoned!
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys — Reviewed 17 September 2016
  7. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman — Reviewed 6 February 2016

It’s really hard to pick a favorite of these. All of the fiction books were wonderful in their own ways, so I’m going to take the easy way out and say that Jane Goodall’s science nonfiction book In the Shadow of Man might be my favorite.


A few other things also happened this year…

I gots me some capital-P Plans for the coming year, too — more on that tomorrow.


Community Cookbooks of West Texas

November 19, 2016 Book Reviews, Books, Home Sweet Home, In the Kitchen 6

Y’all, I wasn’t going to do this post because who cares about 30-50 year-old small-town West Texas fundraiser cookbooks? Well, I do, apparently, and I kind of feel like my dear readers and fellow Nonfiction November-ers and Foodies Read buddies might enjoy some of the real jewels to be found within.

Brace yourselves.

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First up: What’s Cookin’? in Big Spring, Texas by the local chapter of the American Business Women’s Association and the Bev-Ron Publishing Company of Kansas, 1970.

This is the slimmest volume and arguably the most WTF, although I suppose it does also include some good solid advice:

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You have your typical Jell-O based “salad” sorts of things, of course:

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And your Tang-based beverages:

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But I think my absolute favorite “recipe” has to be this super classy casserole:

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Wow, Mrs. Newton, way to make an effort!

Next up, my favorite (er, only) collection of classic church lady recipes…

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In case you’re too distracted by the giant cherub preparing to go all Jericho on that church for crimes against God’s cuisine, the title is Methodist Morsels by the Cookbook Committee of the First United Methodist Church of Lamesa, Texas and Cookbook Publishers, Inc. in Kansas, 1983.

You’d think 1983 would be late enough in the 20th century for us to be beyond things like this “Fancy Chicken Log”, but you’d be wrong:

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If a cream cheese / steak sauce / curry powder flavored log of chicken doesn’t float your boat, why not try this delicious mayonnaise / canned cream of chicken soup / curry powder flavored chicken casserole instead? It’s apparently a “delight”:

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OK, this particular cookbook does include a pretty cute section of easy and cheesy (both literally and figuratively) recipes for the kiddos:

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Aww! Super cute, huh? But then you turn the page and find this:

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I’m sorry but in what world is it cute to title a recipe “Preserved Children”???

ANYWAY, back to the real (hahaha) recipes! How about these 3 Doritos-based casseroles?

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… I’m actually tempted to try one of those.

One cool thing I found is this recipe from my own great-grandmother:

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I mean, it’s super neat seeing a recipe from an ancestor, but am I going to make that for dinner? Uh, no.

The last cookbook was published slightly more recently:

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That’s Favorite Recipes from the Kitchens of the GFWC-TFWC Big Spring Junior Woman’s Club and Their Friends by… well, you know, and their publisher Circulation Service of Kansas, 1987.

Now, I was born in ’87 so I can’t make TOO much fun of how old this book is, but honestly the “favorite” recipes of the ladies of small town West Texas don’t seem to have improved much from their midcentury forerunners.

Case in point:

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Dammit Teri, who told you it was a good idea to microwave shrimp? Stop it.

However, this little cookbook does include some rather charming illustrations and helpful stuff in the index, so all hope is not lost:

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So, yeah. I know y’all are envious of my awesome cookbook collection right now.

Also, I’m totally adding these to Goodreads because I need them to count towards my 2016 reading goal.

Tell me — do you have any vintage community cookbooks or silly old recipes hanging around? Have you tried any of the recipes? Have you tried any of THESE recipes? Should I? No, wait, don’t answer that.


Wine Folly
by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack

September 4, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 4

Puckette_WineFolly

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack | 2015 | Avery | Paperback $25

Red or white? Cabernet or merlot? Light or bold? What to pair with food? Drinking great wine isn’t hard, but finding great wine does require a deeper understanding of the fundamentals.

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine will help you make sense of it all in a unique infographic wine book. Designed by the creators of WineFolly.com, which has won Wine Blogger of the Year from the International Wine & Spirits Competition, this book combines sleek, modern information design with data visualization and gives readers pragmatic answers to all their wine questions….

I like wine, but getting “into” it was a little bit intimidating. All the new vocab, funky tasting methods, and just the general snootiness of oenophile culture can be kind of a hurdle to get over, you know?

A while back, I dug around in the internet for wine websites and blogs. There are plenty of them out there, but Wine Folly is different from most. It seems more welcoming to newbies, more casual/fun/relatable. I was super happy to see that the creators of the Wine Folly website had published a book by the same name.

highly recommend this blog + book to anyone who’s interested in learning more about wine yet might be hesitating because of how intimidating the whole wine scene can seem. The book starts with the basics — how to store wine, carefully taste it, and pair it with food. Then come the wine style profiles, followed by info about regions where the grapes are grown and how geographic origins can affect quality. This is all accompanied by simple but attractive infographics that make it all so much easier to understand.

The real reason I’m reviewing this book — besides the fact that I really do think y’all out to check it out — is because I’ve just started the Wine Folly tasting challenge. This involves tasting 34 wines from the 12 main wine-producing regions, with at least 1 or 2 selections from each of the 9 main wine styles (aromatic white, full-bodied red, and so forth). I originally intended to get this done by the end of this year, but (1) I’m trying really hard to watch my calories right now and (2) I’ve got a lot going on between now and then, what with the holidays and some big work projects and stuff, so I can’t realistically commit to tasting X number of wines per week. If I taste just 1 or 2 wines per weekend, I should be done with this challenge by the end of next April at the latest.

So, how about you — do you enjoy wine? Have you done much exploring with it, or with any other type of beverage you like (tea, craft beer, or whatever)?


Links:


Publication information: Puckette, M. and J. Hammack. Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. New York: Avery, 2015. Print.
Source: Gift.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Chocolate Wars
by Deborah Cadbury

June 18, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 4

Cadbury_ChocolateWars

★ ★ ★

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury | January 2010 | PublicAffairs | Paperback $16.99

In the early nineteenth century the major English chocolate firms — Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury — were all Quaker family enterprises that aimed to do well by doing good. The English chocolatiers introduced the world’s first chocolate bar and ever fancier chocolate temptations — while also writing groundbreaking papers on poverty, publishing authoritative studies of the Bible, and campaigning against human rights abuses. Chocolate was always a global business, and in the global competitors, especially the Swiss and the Americans, the English capitalists met their match. The ensuing chocolate wars would culminate in a multi-billion-dollar showdown pitting Quaker tradition against the cutthroat tactics of a corporate behemoth.

I asked for this book for Christmas because one of my favorite nonfiction foodie books is The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner, and I thought it might be interesting to read about the history of the chocolate business from the perspective of the Brits. The Emperors of Chocolate is still my preferred title in this chocolatey genre, but I’d say that if you’re really interested in the history of the world’s favorite food you ought to try to get your hands on BOTH of these books.

And yes, the author is from THAT Cadbury family. Curiosity about her own family history is what prompted her to begin investigating/writing this book, actually. But I think she does a fair job of representing the stories of other English (& European, & American) chocolate-making families/firms. The history of chocolate as a foodstuff in general is fascinating, and made even more so when you get to “know” the people who made it into a global gazillion-dollar business.

The last third or so of the book wasn’t quite as entertaining as the first parts. I enjoyed reading about the Quaker families who took chocolate from a luxury (and sometimes highly adulterated) drink to the kind of household confection we’re familiar with today. But the latter part of the story is all about the modern corporate food world, and it turns a bit dry and even a bit more depressing. The subject is no longer chocolate and plucky industrialists; it’s globalization and out-of-control-capitalism. I found myself wishing that the book had ended just a few chapters earlier.

Still, it’s a pretty good foodie history story. I enjoyed Cadbury’s writing enough that I’ll be on the lookout for her other history nonfiction titles — she’s written some quite interesting-looking books!


Links:


Publication information: Cadbury, Deborah. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers. New York: Public Affairs, 2010. Print.
Source: Gift.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Locally Laid
by Lucie B. Amundsen

May 9, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 6

Amundsen_LocallyLaid

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm — From Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen | March 2016 | Avery | Hardcover $26

When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner — that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.

With a heavy dose of humor, these newbie farmers learn to negotiate the highly stressed no-man’s-land known as Middle Agriculture. Amundsen sees firsthand how these midsized farms, situated between small-scale operations and mammoth factory farms, are vital to rebuilding America’s local food system.

With an unexpected passion for this dubious enterprise, Amundsen shares a messy, wry, and entirely educational story of the unforeseen payoffs (and frequent pitfalls) of one couple’s ag adventure — and many, many hours spent wrangling chickens.

I was fortunate enough to win this little gem of a book from a giveaway put on by Amanda and Holly of Gun in Act One.

First, let me clarify that I know very little about farming and even less about chickens in particular. What little I do know has been gleaned from various books and TV shows (of the educational variety, to be sure) rather than practical experience. So my admiration for the “middle agriculture” efforts of the Amundsen family is based entirely on the engaging way that their farming life is described in this book. I’m sure people who actually do agricultural stuff for a living could be more eloquent about the Locally Laid venture than I am.

Lucie writes in that kind of casual, “Here’s me and all my flaws, haha, and oh by the way let me drop this ton of knowledge/wisdom on you,” style that I so enjoy in contemporary nonfiction. I wouldn’t shelve this book in the humor section, but there are plenty of LOL moments — alongside some anxiety-inducing moments, of course. I can’t imagine the crushing levels of stress, physical labor, and debt that these people had to (have to?) deal with.

I think the local food movement is actually pretty great — not without its logistical problems, of course, but generally a smart idea — and I need to do a better job as a consumer of supporting smaller, hyper-local organizations. (“Hyper-local” as opposed to the general “Made in Texas” stuff that I make a point of picking up at the grocery store when the opportunity arises.) Now that I have weekends off on the reg again, it’s probably time to pick a nearby farmers market or two to try out.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the local food movement or just the state of modern agriculture in general. I also think it would be a good pick for folks who enjoy sort of blog-like memoirs.


Links:


Publication information: Amundsen, Lucie B. Locally Laid. New York: Avery, 2016. Print.
Source: Giveaway from publisher Avery and blog Gun in Act One.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Consider the Fork
by Bee Wilson

February 27, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

Wilson_ConsidertheFork

★ ★ ★

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson | January 2012 | Basic Books | Hardcover $26.99

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely ever give much thought to the basic technologies that facilitate (or complicate) my cooking and dining experiences. I mean, whoever actually does consider the fork? Bee Wilson, apparently.

This book includes some fascinating insights, like the details of the mid-century kitchens on display at the exhibition where Nixon and Khrushchev had their Kitchen Debate discussions over the merits of communism vs. capitalism in the context of model American homes. And there was quite a lot of detail included about each featured technology, from the long evolution of the “simple” table knife to the quite literally life-saving advent of refrigeration.

– – –

So, yes, the information presented in this book is interesting and the writing certainly isn’t bad, but something about the flow of it all didn’t click for me. The book felt, at times, more like a collection of essays than a comprehensive history of food tech, and at other times it seemed to ramble and drift from whatever point or thesis the author was trying to get at. But, again, I think that’s more of a stylistic preference issue than a quality issue.

I do wish there had been more in the way of footnotes or endnotes. I suppose, given the extensive bibliography tacked on at the end of the book and the author’s professional reputation, that it must have been very well-researched. I guess I just prefer the more academic way of citing things when it comes to nonfiction like this.

– – –

The only thing that really rubbed me the wrong way was the low-level but pervasive snark towards whatever cooking techniques/attitudes the author isn’t fond of. I don’t agree with her idea that cooking isn’t really (or shouldn’t be) a science — because ignoring all the science (accidental or otherwise) that goes into producing a meal is willfully, well, ignorant.

I also really don’t care how silly she thinks the American way of using cups and other volume measures rather than metric weight is — that’s how we do it and it’s a ridiculous thing to make an issue of. Americans are happy to put our flour in measuring cups, pour gravy over our biscuits, and dump your stupid tea straight into the harbor.

– – –

I’m afraid that’s all I have to say about Consider the Fork. My brain is feeling a bit fuzzy lately (blame it on allergies, terrible sleep habits, measuring cups, or whatever) and it’s all I could do to concentrate on this book long enough to make it through a chapter or so at a time. But I’m glad I read it and get to count it towards my Foodies Read challenge this year.


Links:

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Publication information: Wilson, Bee. Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat. New York: Basic Books, 2012. Print.
Source: Purchased from public library used bookshop.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
by J. Kenji López-Alt

January 31, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

LopezAlt_TheFoodLab

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Keni López-Alt | September 2015 | W. W. Norton & Co. | Hardcover $49.95

Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that’s perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining!)—and use a foolproof method that works every time?

As Serious Eats’s culinary nerd-in-residence, J. Kenji López-Alt has pondered all these questions and more. In The Food Lab, Kenji focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food.


López-Alt is a director and columnist at Serious Eats, one of my favorite food websites. Almost every recipe or technique I’ve tried from SE has been worthwhile, so I had high expectations for this cookbook. I was not disappointed!

First, here’s something you need to know about me: I love science-based anything. If someone is going to put the time/effort into trying out different techniques or gathering data on the most efficient use of X, I am happy to read all about it. (See my review for Cooking for Geeks for another example of excellent food experimentation.)

Here’s another thing about me that affects this review in particular: I enjoy cooking (and enjoy eating good food even more), but I’ve been in a cooking slump lately. This is due to a number of factors: schedule changes, high-stress events, finally coming to terms with the fact that my spouse just does not enjoy about 80% of the stuff that I like to eat, and other stuff like that. So when I do cook these days, it’s almost always going to be something tried-n-true and not too labor/time intensive. So that’s a huge part of the appeal of this book for me — the recipes have already been thoroughly tested and a great many of them happily do not require the cook to spend hours in the kitchen (although several do, if that’s your thing).

Beyond that, though, this is also a “book-book” as well as a cookbook. In other words, it isn’t just a collection of recipes. Personal anecdotes, investigations of various methods, and informative graphs/charts abound.

As an example of exactly how thorough López-Alt gets in this book, let’s take the section on making chicken stock. He explains a bit about the history of making/using stock and the various versions of it before jumping in to the experimentation. What part of the chicken makes the tastiest stock, or the most gelatin-y stock: wings, legs, breasts, or the leftover carcass? What is the best method for clarifying the stock or removing extra fat? What is the best storage method and how long can it be stored? And then: what kind of soups make the best use of this perfect homemade chicken stock?

Of course, you can use the traditional method of throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and simmering it for a few hours, or you can just buy the dang stock from any grocery store, but that’s not the point. If you want the best possible chicken stock that makes the most efficient use of your time and kitchen resources, The Food Lab can tell you how to do that — and more importantly, WHY you should do it this way.

The thing that pushed this into 5-star territory for me, though, is the physical qualities of the book. There are a ton of full-color illustrations, the pages themselves have a nice thickness and a slight gloss to them (helpful for messier cooks like myself), and the binding is sturdy and — best of all — the book lays flat so that the pages stay open to whichever recipe you need with no struggle. These things are all signs of a cookbook constructed with real attention to detail.


Links:

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Publication information: López-Alt, J. Kenji. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2015. Print.
Source: Purchased from Barnes & Noble.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Foodies Read 2016

January 2, 2016 Books 0

Once again, I have decided to sign up for the Foodies Read challenge!

foodiesread2016

This year the challenge is being hosted by
Heather of Based on a True Story

I almost didn’t this year. I worry that it is a bad idea to try to do too many challenges or series at once. I’m already working on and a handful of other reading challenges and other little personal goals. And last year I had a hard time meeting all of my goals!

That’s why this year, I’m focusing on only 3 specific titles. This puts me at “Short-Order Cook” level, which I realize does not seem all that impressive. However, I just don’t have any other unread food-related books on my shelves at home (other than cookbooks) and I’m not entirely sure which other ones I want to buy or borrow from the library yet. I’ll probably end up reading more than 3 “foodie” books but these are the ones I’m absolutely committed to:

  1. Consider the fork by Bee Wilson (2012)
  2. The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (2015)
  3. Wine folly by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack (2015)
Wilson_ConsidertheForkLopezAlt_TheFoodLabPuckette_WineFolly

I’ll be keeping track of this challenge on my official Current Projects page.


Foodies Read 2015 Wrap Up

December 30, 2015 Books 0

This year I participated in the Foodies Read 2015 challenge. I went for “Pastry Chef” level, originally aiming for 5 food-focused books but tacking on an extra here at the end of the year just for giggles:

  1. Cooking for geeks: Real science, great hacks, and good food by Jeff Potter (2010)
  2. Reviewed 23 December 2015

  3. French lessons: Adventures with a knife, fork, & corkscrew by Peter Mayle (2001)
  4. Reviewed 13 May 2015

  5. Relish: My life in the kitchen by Lucy Knisley (2013)
  6. Reviewed 13 February 2015

  7. The road to Dr Pepper, Texas by Karen Wright (2006)
  8. Reviewed 27 September 2015

  9. Vegetarian cooking for everyone by Deborah Madison (1997)
  10. Reviewed 24 October 2015

  11. 100 million years of food by Jeff Potter (2016)
  12. Reviewed 22 December 2015

I’m glad I decided to try this challenge. Food + books = 2 great tastes that taste great together! I learned a lot and found some interesting new recipes.

I’ve been wishy-washy about participating in this challenge (or any reading challenges) next year, but I finally decided to go ahead and give it another try. More details about my Foodies Read 2016 plans in a couple of days!


Cooking for Geeks
by Jeff Potter

December 23, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 0

Potter_CookingforGeeks


★ ★ ★ ★

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter | July 2010 | O’Reilly Media | EPUB (Barnes & Noble Nook) $38.99

Why, exactly, do we cook the way we do? Are you curious about the science behind what happens to food as it cooks? Are you the innovative type, used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Do you want to learn how to become a better cook?

When you step into the kitchen, you’re unwittingly turned into a physicist and a chemist. This excellent and intriguing resource is for inquisitive people who want to increase their knowledge and ability to cook.

Please note: This review is for the FIRST edition of this title. There is now a 2nd edition, which incl. an additional 150 pages of new content!

This book includes an interesting combination of super basic recipes (hard boiled eggs, no-knead bread) and complicated or time-intensive recipes (duck confit sugo, 48-hour brisket). The focus in all the recipes, regardless of required skill/interest level, is how the cooking techniques work.

For example, Potter doesn’t just tell you that the “shock and awe” method of hard boiling eggs produces better-tasting eggs with shells that are easier to peel off; he walks you through the thermal gradient of the egg and what the shock of hot/cold water will do to the insides as well as the shell.

That being said, I have to confess that I have not actually tried any of the recipes in this book yet (no, not even the supposedly super-scientific perfect eggs). I hesitate to “review” a cookbook without having tried the recipes, but here’s why I went ahead and did it anyway:

1. Cooking for Geeks isn’t just a collection of recipes. It includes interviews, lots of tips for beginners, kitchen organization + equipment advice, and all kinds of science-y info on topics like taste, heat conduction methods, and food safety.

2. I just wanted to finish my last review for both my TBR Pile Challenge and Foodies Read goals.

Since reason number 2 is boring, let’s talk some more about reason number 1.

– – –

I especially liked the sections on tastes (like bitter, sweet, sour, etc.) and the kitchen organization + equipment info. These are not topics that most “cookbooks” delve into but they’re still very important to successful cooking. I would recommend this book to beginner cooks, despite some of the more complicated recipes, simply because these sections are so dang helpful.

Potter encourages experimentation. There’s a lot of “What happens if we… ?” and “Try X, Y, or Z instead and see how it turns out!” going on here. That’s cool with me, but if you’re looking for extremely precise or strict recipes (and some people do prefer that!) you’ll just want to be aware that this is more of an experiment-friendly book.

The recipes themselves aren’t even written in the traditional cooking time | ingredients list | steps | notes kind of way, nor will you find a lot of big glossy photos of pretty dishes. The focus is all on figuring out how stuff works and how you can make it work even better.

(That said, I love cookbooks with pretty pictures and would have appreciated some more illustrations/photos. Still, since I was reading this on my Nook + phone, I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate them anyway!)

– – –

Also, keep in mind that a lot of the “geek” references are geared more towards developer/hacker types. Like, if you think of yourself as a geek or nerd or whatever because you read a lot of comics and play tabletop RPGs, cool, let’s be friends, but also you might miss out on some of the references meant for the more computer-y species of geek.

Despite those geek species-specific references, this book covers a lot of science and techniques that you don’t have to know anything about coding to get. I’m saying that with a background in the natural sciences so basic household chemistry doesn’t scare me anyway, but I truly think that as long as you have an interest in the subject of kitchen science you’ll be able to understand all or most of the topics in this book.


Links:

So, what do you think? I’m open to recommendations for other geek-friendly cookery books!


Publication information: Potter, Jeff. Cooking for Geeks. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2010. EPUB.
Source: Purchased from Barnes & Noble.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.