What We're Cooking Now

What We're Cooking Now - My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

jamie's dinners - the essential family cookbook

Cookbooks to all of us here at 'Four Cooks One Book', are so much more than just collections of recipes. Cookbooks represent the potential for happy times together, inspiring us to remember favourite recipes enjoyed around our own dinner tables growing up. Cookbooks can also encourage us to push past what we know and are comfortable with, and in so doing, encourage our own children to experience foods from all over our global village.

We will strive to do just that with our reviews-considering books that aim to bring the family back to the table, as well as books that inspire us to learn something completely different.

We hope that our observations on the aesthetics, layout, recipe text, and supplies will be useful to you. To delve further into each test category, please see the sidebar entitled "Jamie Oliver". There you will find our specific thoughts on Appetizers (Diane), Mains (Debra), Sides (Julie) and Desserts (Bonnie).

The Good:
  • The pictures are BIG, close up, and WITH the recipes. There’s nothing worse than finding a picture 5 pages after the recipe that shows the end result displayed on a table with 9 other dishes.
  • The pages are a good size, and the font is large enough to read. We're all getting older folks. Don't make me get food on those reading glasses!
  • The book has a well organized Table of Contents and an Index. 
  • The footer tells you what section you’re in. Great, we love that....although that doesn’t help you much when the section is titled “top 10"….top ten what????
  • The layout on MOST recipes is fine (see The Bad, below), although Jamie tends to hide valuable information in his introductions that you often miss.
  • There are a ton of varied recipes that cover a wide range from easy to hard, and from informal to formal. Lovely--something for everyone!
  • We found that most of the ingredients were either things the average home cook would have on  hand, or alternatively, were easy to find, reasonably priced, and likely to be used again.
The Bad:
  • The chalkboard pages didn't work for us. They seemed to not fit in with the rest of the book which was mostly professional looking. Pages 248-249 are good examples of a VERY poor attempt at humour. Perhaps he just needed 2 extra pages to fill out the printers form?
  • The layout is a bit confusing with his extra chapters up front. There are some fantastic recipes hidden in "Top Ten" and "Family Tree" that could easily be missed if you were quickly looking in the index for a specific category.  Also his last section on kitchens that work would have been nice to see up front, although there is NOTHING really useful in it. Hmmm did you know if you don’t get a ceiling unit to hang your pans, you can use a free standing metal or wooden shelf to stack your bowls or equipment? Again, seems like filler...
  • We found he has a strange way of presenting some recipes (e.g. p. 56). He doesn't use a standard recipe format, nor does he quantify the amount of each ingredient. Terrifying for a beginner cook.
  • We like to see mini Tables of Contents at the beginning of each section (i.e., all the appetizers listed at the start of that section). Again, just makes referencing that much easier.
  • Some recipes could have easily been eliminated (e.g. p. 82… Figs, a slice of ham and basil on bread? And p. 39 ….a ball of mozzarella with pesto??? Those are midnight snacks from the fridge, not recipes Jamie!
  • And in direct contrast to those incredibly simple 'recipes' noted above, we found some of the ingredients (for example beets in 4 different colours) felt a bit precious.  Certainly not something that the average grocery store has on hand. 
Our Conclusion:
  • Some good basic recipes to be found here-but all in all it seemed like a 'rush to publish' type endeavour. There was not much by way of inspiration, innovation, or education. Sorry Jamie.

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