Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten. I heard various people through the grapevine rave about Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, so I thought I should check one out to see what all the fuss was about. Bottom line? A first! I’ve just been put-down by a cookbook! (It’s not so much hurtful as much as I kinda want a chance to return some of the disgust. Freely receive and freely give, right??) On the first, it should have been subtitled “How to cook very expensive food, mostly so that you can impress your friends.” and then, beneath that, “and obviously you need to because you have very low self-esteem and aren’t too sure about the friendship of your friends, and besides, if I were you, I would need to drink at every meal too.” The whole attitude of the cookbook was really starting to grate on me, and it was kind of summed up in this quote: “It’s really a challenge to take something pedestrian from the grocery store and make it really delicious.”
If we were to turn “snark” off, I would say that this is cookbook that assumes you have a large income, a strong inclination toward good appearances, and a ‘sophisticated’ palate. Not a pedestrian one. In other words, yes, I think this pretty much classifies as a snob cookbook. (Okay, so maybe my snark doesn’t really have an “off” setting, just “low.” Or “lower,” anyway.) And that’s okay–I carry around plenty of snobbery myself–like I’m a snob about bread, for instance; store bought pre-packaged stuff is just gross. But you should know what you’re getting if you look into this cookbook.
I did find two recipes I wanted to copy out of it. One was for granola bars, and the other was for strawberry jam. Although I am going to leave the Grand Marnier out of the jam, since I am pedestrian, and I haven’t been converted to using champagne vinegar in cucumber salad, and I’m not going to make truffled filet of beef sandwiches. Even if it would “make my friends swoon.” You can, though!
Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann was an interesting book. I think that probably it should come instead of a manual with any slow cooker. I don’t have a slow cooker; I think I would need a slow cooker roughly the size of a small watercraft in order to have it be an effective means of feeding my current crowd. I like that they are honest that certain types of cookers work better for certain types of recipes, and that they are diverse. There’s, like, 34 different recipes for grain porridge. Some cookbooks would be all like, “. . . annnnd, you do can do this with lots of other grains, too. The end.” Some of us are looking at cookbooks because we’re short on inspiration, so it’s nice to get so much of it.
I bet you a fairly large chunk of money that you would never make all the recipes in here (most people, for instance, aren’t cooking rabbit). But it is a “real” cookbook, with real ingredients (not a lot of reliance on processed foods, but also not a lot of reliance on trips to specialty stores), to make real food when you really need to use a slow cooker.
I think. Not having a slow-cooker, I couldn’t test any recipes out of it. But it made me want to go out a slow cooker, and I figured that was probably a pretty good review of the cookbook right there.
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook is a classic cookbook; by “classic,” I mean that you give it to new brides so that when their mother-in-law comes to visit and they feel the need to impress they can go straight to this cookbook and look up how to make Eggs Sardou for breakfast. Or, if she’s really new to this domesticated business, how to make scrambled eggs. And–how to fold the napkins, to boot.
It’s a frank, down to earth, no nonsense approach to traditional American—whatever that means, since American cooking is a blend of a multitude of cuisines. New England Boiled Dinner, Homemade pasta noodles, fried oyster po’ boys, Kung Pao chicken, and Huevos Rancheros with Chiles all comfortably appear in this book. You won’t find modern trendy selling points plastered all over the place (just 2 1/2 ingredients and 13.75 minutes to make! Only 0.3 grams of trans fat and NEGATIVE carbs!!), but you will find almost any answer to almost any cooking question. Including, very matter of factly, how to scale a fish.
There is nothing particularly exciting! in this cookbook, but you would probably keep going back to it, over and over and over throughout this years. This is the kind of cookbook where you know it’s been properly broken in when it falls open to “the good recipes” and has the splatters and stains to prove just how very often it was worth consulting.