Beautifully done, exceptionally informative, giving an understanding of more than just the recipes and the techniques but of the people and their wayBeautifully done, exceptionally informative, giving an understanding of more than just the recipes and the techniques but of the people and their way of life and their relationship with food, this book rocks. I could talk about the usefulness of the regionally-based organization. I could talk about the stunning images. I could talk about the straightforward recipes that do not choke the experience of learning about a different place and people than my own. But really, all I need to say to justify my 5-star rating is this: when I cooked Greek food using this book, my friend FROM GREECE (and not like 50 years ago from Greece, but like 2 years ago) said "wow, this is great, it's just like we eat in Greece." That is the prize, is it not?...more
This could go on my "reading" shelf because I'm ALWAYS reading it. It is my standard starting point for any recipe search that I do. It is true that IThis could go on my "reading" shelf because I'm ALWAYS reading it. It is my standard starting point for any recipe search that I do. It is true that I don't always find everything I want (yes, we all know the title is hyperbole), but what I find is just great.
This book is the "Joy of Cooking" for a new generation. It has supplanted that venerable old institution, and presents the world of cooking in a way that can both engage the neophyte and interest the adept. And the fact that the recipes and ideas contained within it are simple food makes it all the better. As the Minimalist, Bittman has practice making good food simply. If you want to make it more extravagant, you can; but these recipes act as a guide on the route to culinary self sufficiency.
Part of what I like so much is the pedagogic stance Bittman takes. Say I've avoided...oh, maybe...beans for years, but now want to cook them myself; he doesn't just throw a bunch of recipes at me, he talks about how to work with beans in general, noting specific exceptions and sticking points. He tells me about different types of beans and their flavors and "behaviors." This makes it an indispensable reference tool.
Another part of what I like is what has driven many people away form this book: its lack of glossy color pictures. Well done, I say! Though I love my Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking, with its close-up pictures of well presented delectibles, I find the photos can be distracting. So many cookbooks now are becoming photographic show ponies rather than culinary work horses. Where Bittman presents a technique that is hard to visualize, there are small, well drawn and useful illustrations. I think that's how it should be. If there are going to be photos, let them really show what's going on, like in Time-Life's The Good Cook series, or (if I remember correctly)the Culinary Institue of America's Garde Manger. Heck, even Cook's Illustrated only uses one postage stamp size color picture for each dish. I guess what I mean to say is that I not only don't mind, but rather like the lack of pictures in this cookbook.
I love this book and will always keep it. Even though I am certainly no longer a novice in the kitchen, it still comes through for me all the time....more