Thursday, February 09, 2006

HOW TO COOK WITHOUT A BOOK

There is one thing that every cookbook author can learn from How To Cook Without A Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know By Heart, by Pam Anderson (not the big-titted one), and that is the art of the highly marketable title.

For starters, this artful moniker really plays on the single gal's fears about never being able to put together nutritious, attractive, varied, affordable, and delicious meals for her future (imaginary) family every single night of the week. When you live on your own, it's okay to have boiled eggs and cereal for supper (and lunch and breakfast - by the way, after 2 years of this I ended up with meningitis). But you want your kids to be armed with more than cholesterol, crude protein and some simple carbohydrates when you send them off into the big bad world.

Besides, who wants to be dependent on a cookbook for the rest of her life? I really enjoy tooling around in the kitchen, but that's because I make things out of cookbooks, and only when I feel like it. When someone compliments me on something I made, I feel like a fraud. It's more about the book I used, rather than any skill or talent I have. It's like displaying a paint-by-numbers book at your art opening. Or coming out with a karaoke album.

So the plus side of this book is the title. That's where it ends. The big idea here is to help the reader become a non-cookbook-consulting cook by: a) teaching basic cooking techniques that are conducive to variation, and b) suggesting mnemonic devices for said cooking techniques. Sounds interesting so far, right?

Well, the problem is that almost all the recipes rely on "canned low-sodium chicken broth", which I think is a bit of a weird ingredient. It's even included in the salad dressings. Other big hitters include: heavy cream, butter, and sour cream. Do people really eat like this? Regularly?

Why not make the Easy Fruit Parfaits for a quick and sweet ending to your meal? Just take a tall glass, drop in a few spoonfuls of sour cream, then a few spoonfuls of brown sugar, and some berries. Repeat until the glass is filled.

Jesus H. Christ. Sour cream, brown sugar, and berries?!? Wouldn't it be just as easy to put the berries in yoghurt sweetened with a little squirt of Greek honey? Am I totally off base thinking that this sounds much more appetizing? Or, if calories are no object anyway, why not pick up some Baskin Robbins' Rocky Road on the way home from work? That's easy and it's worth the internal havoc it will cause.

Oh, and here's a sample mnemonic device that I can't not share, it's that good:
Cook tender vegetables with garlic and oil,
Then toss in some pasta that's fresh from the boil.
Pure genius, right? Right.

In a way, the author was right - I CAN cook all these things without a book. But why would I want to?

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My god woman- you've been positively prolific! I loved the list about London-- makes me want to go just to try out everything on your list-- and you sound like you have that cookbook right--- can you believe she got it published? Sheesh.

And--- I'm chuffed (see? I can do London-speak) that I had any part in getting you hooked back into it-- if the book was sitting on your shelf it was MEANT for you to dig back in.

Cheers, Elizabeth
http://bluepoppy.omworks.com

12:22 PM  
Blogger e! said...

Thanks, Elizabeth!
Survived day two of the morning pages. Nothing's happening just yet! Updates forthcoming!

2:42 PM  
Blogger meghan said...

Hello, I just found your site & I wanted to tell you I loved this post! As a girls who has lived on toast, eggs and cereal, I am also in fear of eventually feeding children. Thanks for the tips today - rocky road sounds about right!!

7:44 PM  
Blogger teahouse said...

My solution to that is just to order delivery all of the time...

10:20 PM  
Blogger e! said...

Megg - thanks for dropping by! I had a feeling my kind (ie. the hard-boiled egg and cereal eating kind) was out there somewhere :)

Teahouse - I always love your comments! Smartass!! (Good idea, though.)

2:21 AM  

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