One of the nice things about living alone is that I can try out a lot of different things in the kitchen, and I have only my own tastes to worry about. I can make things as spicy as I want, try my hand at new ingredients and techniques before subjecting other people to them. Of course, I'm not really a chef, so I rely on cookbooks and the invaluable knowledge provided in them to get me through my cooking experiments. There are so many cookbooks available out there, though, it can be overwhelming. That's why I often avail myself of the wide variety of books available at the library. If the pages have food signs, that's a sign it's a good one, right?
Here are a few I've checked out.
Derived from a blog that "draws" artists from all over the world, They Draw and Cook is a colorful compendium of illustrated favorite recipes submitted to the website. Simple recipes for the most part, the kind of comfort food that is hearty and quick to make, it is great way to experience some of the diverse, everyday cuisine of the world. Including a mix of vegetarian, meat, and desserts, there should be something to suit any palate. I tried recipes from Spain, Russia, and the U.S. However, while the varied art styles used by each artist to illustrate the procedures and ingredients are fun, on occasion they can be a little difficult to follow. This is particularly hard in the case of different methods of measuring that may be hard to convert, on the cuff, to whatever standards you follow. Still, experimenting with recipes can be its own fun.
The Forest Feast is definitely a beautiful book, with colorful, vivid photographs (as befits a professional photographer), with a lot of fun, simple vegetarian recipes that take advantage of the fresh produce of seasons. The recipes themselves are presented in a fun way, with photographs of the required ingredients spread out and ready to use. On the other hand, the recipes themselves are, for the most part, pretty simplistic and common sense- nothing you have not seen before in tons of other vegetarian cookbooks- on occasion, it’s just slapping together a couple of store bought items, like an ice cream float using beer (don’t forget to put nuts on top). Pretty nice ideas for a last minute dinner party and great for a library checkout just for the pretty pictures if nothing else.
I’m not really a stoner, nor am I strictly a vegan. I more what it’s trendy to call a “flexitarian,” but much of what I cook is vegan, so I decided to check out this cute book with its simple recipes to see if there was anything work making in here. There are some interesting and innovative recipes here, generally dumbed down a bit to be useful to those who may be a little stoned while they’re jonesin’ for some grub but it actually uses a lot of packaged, premade food, generally of the sort you pick up at Trader Joes. Also, I felt that some of the recipes were a little vague in their ingredients list (being represented by pictures, for the most part). Still, it is a pretty adorable presentation and some of the recipes were good comfort food, such as the Peanut Stew and the Swedish Neatballs.
This is a bit of a problematic one- I started out following the blog and being amused by it’s comical profanity, the incongruous nature of vegan cooking from "the streets," and the pretty tasty recipes (in particular, the roasted chickpea and broccoli burrito). , Perhaps it was easier to pretend that maybe it was created by a multicultural group of chefs, but after it was published it became known that it was the product of a couple of lily white yuppie types. Hmmm. "Digital Blackface" may be an accurate charge here.
I guess they needed a schtick to differentiate Thug Kitchen from all those other irreverent vegan cookbooks out there, and maybe up it’s “macho” quotient a bit to pull in some dietary fence sitters, but what may have been less of an issue for a blog is a little more difficult in a published book, I feel. While it may be a rather minor point for a tough talking cookbook to be accused of racism, it does seem a little hard to defend. I mean, you can argue that "thug" does not automatically mean "Black," but in an American context, what is the connotation?
I don’t know if would have been better to have called it the “tough guy” kitchen, but the racial appropriation angle is unavoidable here, no matter how good the food. On that front, I do like the recipes.
One from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Northern Plate series, I really enjoyed this cookbook and will definitely be picking it up. I have always enjoyed squash, and Amanda Paa pulls together a lot of great vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes for this great, oft ignored piece of produce. This is a great companion for the Twin Cities' many awesome farmers markets, for any time of year, summer squash and autumnal butternuts alike, so that you can always have a use for whatever's available. Now, I'll need to check out Northern Plate's rhubarb title!