Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Cookbooks

This is a story about two cookbooks. One that I really wanted for Christmas last year, but didn't receive. And another that I'd never seen before but found on the library cart on my way out the door. You know the old saying, never judge a book by it's cover? It is SO true...

First, the hefty beauty, The Golden Book of Chocolate. The cover is alluring, with a shiny gold wrapper and a chocolate bar imprinted on the cover. It looks like you're picking up a giant candy bar. (Score one for the design team!) The book starts with a rather indepth history of chocolate, which is interesting but reads a bit more like a textbook. There are nice full color images of each recipe. Being a visually-oriented person, I like to know what I'm shooting for before I start. Beyond that, I found the book to be lacking in charm and not very user friendly. There are no referential lead-ins to the recipes or details about ingredients. It's starkly organized: just the ingredient list, the recipe and photo. I think the Drink and Basic Recipe sections are the best this cookbook has to offer. I was disappointed in the book overall which really surprised me. The Nobake Cookie bars were really awful tasting. It's the first time we have ever thrown out chocolate in my house. Seriously, in the trash, because no one would eat them. That's sad. This book is worth perusing, if for nothing more than the dishy photos, but I'm sure glad my husband didn't shell out $30 on this for my Christmas gift!

Now for the second cookbook, Here in America's Test Kitchen. The cover may not be sexy (no offense) but it's what's inside that counts. I must confess that this is one of my favorite food shows on PBS. But this cookbook really does deliver to the foodie-geek that I am! Each chapter consists of a theme, equipment corner, science desk and testing lab all focusing on the recipe theme of the chapter. For instance Chapter 12, American Casseroles. It talks about why we American's love our casseroles. It describes each recipe in-depth giving well-rounded information on history, ingredients, etc. Then the recipe, in this case Macaroni and Cheese (cue the angels singing). Just following the recipe is the testing lab where they tell you how ingredients, such as different brands of cheddar cheese, fared in taste tests. This information is organized in a handy chart explaining why something was or was not recommended. Equipment corner explains what tools are best for the job, prep, baking, etc. In my opinion, if you're going to make mac and cheese, why not hit it out the park? I love making ordinary foods taste extraordinary and I'm impressed by all the testing and tasting that these folks put into their recipes. While it's not loaded with tons of recipes, it certainly gets down to the nitty-gritty on the recipes it does contain. This book was published in 2002 so it's also very affordable. Check out the great deals on amazon if you're interested or borrow one from your local lending library. It looks like they've published over a dozen cookbooks from this show, wowza. Guess what I'll be looking for the next time I'm at the library?

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Leslie. I'm interested in checking out America's Test Kitchen now. Never seen the show!


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