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Thursday, Apr 16, 2015
Today's cookbook buyer expects great writing, tight editing, and museum-level photography. We also expect fantastic food.

Spices & Seasons is a mixed offering from home cook and blogger Rinku Bhattacharya. While her love of cooking shines from every page, the book is marred by minimal editing and limited spellchecking. Poor organization stymies willing cooks. Information about spices, alone and in combination, is spread throughout the book. The various subrecipes beneath main entries send readers hunting through the book in the midst of cooking. 


This is all a shame, for Bhattacharya is an earnestly sweet kitchen presence with much to offer. One suspects she carried the production of Spices & Seasons entirely on her shoulders. This would be overwhelming for anyone, much less a married financial professional with two children. Bhattacharya deserves better.


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Friday, Apr 10, 2015
The Covenant Kitchen's authors don't expect Jews to renounce their historically abstemious ways, but they wish we'd have a glass.

“Jews have always been known for their moderation in drinking alcohol.”
Claudia Roden, “Wine in the Jewish World”, The Book of Jewish Food


“Don’t worry, your Jewish blood will get you through. “
—Caroline Knapp’s maternal Jewish Uncle, on her admission of alcoholism, Drinking: A Love Story


“How can you tell the Jews from the non-Jews leaving the theatre? The Jews are saying: Oh my God, I’m starving. Let’s go the deli. Let’s get some cake.  The non-Jews are saying, let’s go the bar and get a drink.”
—Comedian Jackie Mason


Jeff and Jodie Morgan, authors of The Covenant Kitchen, aren’t suggesting Jews surrender their historically abstemious attitudes toward drink.  However, the owners of Berkeley, California’s kosher Covenant Winery do wish we’d drink more wine with our dinner. Hence, The Covenant Kitchen, a collection of kosher meals and wine pairings for “the new Jewish table”.


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Thursday, Mar 5, 2015
Canning is like having an investment or retirement fund in your pantry. You make small deposits over time, and there’s a huge payoff in convenience, in flavor.

Eugenia Giobbi Bone grew up in a household where good cooking was the norm. Her father, artist and cookbook author Edward Giobbi, is an avid preserver whose home-canned foods were part of the daily diet. Bone began canning when she was eight months pregnant with her second child. She recounts this experience in Well-Preserved. Published in 2009, Well-Preserved is an invaluable modern manual dedicated to small batch preservation.


Like many cooks, I am both drawn to and terrified of canning. Bone’s friendly, no-nonsense explanation of spoilers and how to prevent them quelled those fears. But it was this sentence that truly liberated my inner canner: “Cleanliness is always important. Not fanatical cleanliness, just washing-your-hands-after-riding-the-subway sort of cleanliness.”


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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015
Jennifer McLagan loves a controversial ingredient. Her cookbooks include works on bones, fat, and the scary bits. Now it's time to get bitter.

“I need a cigar,” I said to the tobacconist. 


He gestured toward a locked cabinet. Behind its glass doors, cigars were arrayed floor to ceiling. The chocolate truffle recipe called for an inch of cigar, preferably Cuban, infused in heavy cream. Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States. I could choose a cheap cigar stinking through the glass like hell’s own aftershave, or do the bling thing and blow 30 bucks.  Aiming for middle ground, I spent $9. 


“For your husband?”  The man asked, ringing me up.


“For a recipe.”


What?


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Thursday, Jan 22, 2015
A relentless sales pitch aimed at Midwestern "moms" grates in this Indian cookbook. Ignore the patter and focus on the recipes.

Readers demand far more from modern cookbooks than just useful recipe collections. Authors must be Personalities, expertly ushering readers through a dish’s every possible nuance. We turn to cookbooks for lifestyle advice on diet, decor, and entertaining. Increasingly, cookbooks are art objects, brimming with gorgeous photography. Authors like Naomi Duguid, Claudia Roden, and Paula Wolfert publish meticulously researched cookbooks delving deeply into various cultures through food. 


Atop this sits the world of social media. It’s no longer possible to publish a cookbook without a website, a blog, a twitter feed, a Facebook page. 


What, then, defines a good cookbook?


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