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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cookbook reviews

I am planning on doing reviews for every cookbook that we have, no small task since we have almost 400. We are also currently working on making sure that all of our cookbooks are listed on Library Thing.  And with a small house you can well imagine that they are not all in the same place.  Yes we even have a shelf of them in the hallway above a door.  You know that foot or so of space just below the ceiling is totally overlooked in most homes.  You can be so creative with that space.  It doesn’t need to be books, it could be whatever you collect.  Or instead of putting up a wide shelf put one up that is only a couple inches deep and use it to display photos or your children’s artwork and awards.

How do you rate a cookbook?  How do you get consistent ratings? I use a form for my reviews on books of fiction. I find that it helps me remember what I should be looking at, and this way I am comparing the same items, like plot, character, theme etc. I am working on a blank cookbook review form so I can approach it the same way.  A form will also make sure that I am listing the same information about a book. 

What would I like to know about a cookbook before I buy it? So many cookbook reviews I see give the book a bad review because it wasn’t what they expected.  I think that it is unfair to give a book a bad rating if you weren’t the ‘target audience’.  For example some of the reviews for the Hungry Girl cookbooks that I have looked at give them a bad rating.   Because the person who got the book clearly did not fit into their target audience, or did not understand what the concept was they gave it a bad review. It’s like getting a Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade cookbook and complaining that she uses prepared foods.  To me the Hungry Girl cookbooks are books, really hit their target audience, they are for people who really do not cook, or have no idea how to cook healthy. While they are not necessarily healthy recipes, they are healthier recipes.  They really are good for making you look at your food choices and teaching you how to make informed decisions.   My daughter, who is a diabetes health educator, uses the Hungry Girl cookbooks at work and she says that they are extremely helpful. 

So not only do you have to understand what the target audience is, for many of our books you need to understand the time period that they were written in.  Do you rate a book written in the 1930’s or 50’s the same way that you would written currently?  What makes a cookbook a truly great cookbook?  What is important to one person isn’t necessarily important to another.  So lots of questions to answer.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Food should be fun, fetching and flavorful.

Food should be fun, fetching and flavorful.  Anyone who disagrees hasn’t eaten anything really good.  Food, here in America at least, has come to mean fast & fattening.  I think that we should change that.  There is nothing wrong with food created fast, or something that takes hours to create.  I admit that I am one of those people that don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen creating dishes.  But most days I want instant gratification, so none of this cooking for two stuff in my household.  I want cooking for eight!  Then I divide up the leftovers and freeze – instant frozen dinner.  The fact that I saved money by making it myself and that I know exactly what is in my food are bonuses.

Ok, I read cookbooks.  Yes, read them like other people read novels, and then I make up recipes in my head, when I am not making up stories to help relax so I can get to sleep.  Sometimes the making recipes to make me relax backfires and instead keeps me awake but I have come up with some pretty good recipes if I do say so myself.  The cucumber blue cheese boats that everyone request for example.

So today I made some fun food.  It’s kind of plain looking but it is tasty and fun – glutinous rice and banana tamales.  I was going to make Turkish Manti, but I have been feeling under the weather and they are a lot of work.

Ok, the picture isn't the greatest, did I mention that I have been feeling under the weather?  But it gives you the idea.  And is it simple??   Yes! Make glutinous rice, add coconut milk, sugar and some bananas (or really any kind of fruit), wrap it all up in the corn husk like a tamale and steam it.

So get into the kitchen and have fun!