Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Too Many Books In the Kitchen

funny pictures of cats with captions

I got a Kindle for Christmas, and for some reason it's made me mad for downloading cookbooks.  Not only are cookbooks generally a lot cheaper in eBook format, but you can download a sample and see how you like them before you buy them.  This has been really useful for me as I can generally tell when a cookbook's going to be a pain in the ass from the introduction.  Here are a few that I've tried out so far:


I wanted a cookbook of "rustic" (re: simple) French recipes, so I tried out Proven├žal Cooking: Savoring the Simple Life in France by Mary Ann Caws.  She starts off talking about her perfect retirement in France, which was preceded by her perfect college days at Bryn Mawr, her perfect marriage, and her perfect children who spoke fran├žaise at home because they're all just so special.  I kind of hate this woman, but I persevere in the belief that the recipes she gives us will in fact be simple and good.  And she is a pretty good writer.

I was also immediately interested in Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable, and Seasonal Kitchen by Amy Pennington and Della Chan.  All the things I could possibly want are right there in the title--thrifty, sustainable, and seasonal.  The book also promised tips on how to keep an apartment-style kitchen garden, which would be pretty great.  However, I knew I was going to have issues with this book in the "Stocking the Pantry" section, where the author lists four different types of flours, none of which I had ever heard of.  If I have to keep track of flour, I'll go crazy.  Straight up.  Also, the author calls people who stay at home cooking instead of going out to eat while they're in their 20's lame, which seems counterproductive to the selling of one's cookbook.  Then I skipped ahead to the recipe section and realized I had no interest in cooking any of the meals.  One of them was called "bones and beans."  Wow, yum.  That'll be awesome for our cannibalistic, dystopian future.  Here's a great idea for a pantry meal: spaghetti.  Moving on....

5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Meals by Claire Robinson is another book that I was instantly attracted to.  Five ingredients!  Sounds good to me.  But this book is odd.  Robinson begins the introduction by saying her philosophy centers on good, seasonal ingredients.  Okay!  But the book isn't organized by ingredient or season, so it seems to go against her "philosophy."  Furthermore, I was more than a little annoyed that she includes cocktail recipes in the book.  If I wanted cocktail recipes, I'd pick up a cocktail book, first of all; and second of all, how hard is it to make a cocktail with 5 ingredients?  Really.  Anyway, I'm not sure I want to buy this book and have yet to try any of the recipes.

One of the things I NEED in my life is bread.  Even if I eat A LOT, I don't feel full unless I have bread with a meal.  Bread is surprisingly expensive, however, and I feel I could save money if I made my own bread.  This is why I sampled Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads by Nancy Baggett (awesome name for a baker, btw).  At first I was impressed by the scientific tone of the introduction and the fact that I didn't have to knead bread, which is great because I have arms like noodles.  However, from mixing to the point where you actually put the bread in the oven is a 30+ hour process, which seems mighty long, and this was another book that required me to buy a bunch of different flours.

Then I was tooling around Amazon and spotted Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  These bread recipes are also no-knead, can be stored in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to bake them, and truly require only five minutes (not counting rising and baking time, which is about 40 or so minutes).  The sample I downloaded also suggested I would not need to buy any special flour or ingredients unless I wanted to, and no special tools.  Hooray!  This is the book for me!  I bought the whole thing, only to realize they do require special tools and flours that weren't mentioned in the free sample.  Nuts.  However, this still seems like a very hassle-free way to bake bread, so I think I will persevere and give it a try anyway.  Whether it will be worth giving up the convenience of just buying bread from Panera on my way to and from school remains to be seen.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

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