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What criteria?????

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Just wondering what everyone based their criteria on when they read or review a cookbook? What is the one key element or elements you look for when reading a cookbook?
post #2 of 14
This is going to be very much a personal-taste thing. For me, I can't stand books with factual inaccuracies. An author who still writes "sear the meat to seal in the juices" won't earn any royalties from me. There are heaps of authors who write cookbooks without once looking beyond their nose, simply repeating things they believe (or may have learnt) but which have been shown to be incorrect or are simply misinformed... sometimes it's a case of an established chef/writer or foodwriter who has been sitting on their laurels too long.

I don't mind about photos, but I do like a clean readable layout.
post #3 of 14
I agree. I am not a vegetarian but I do have a couple of vegetarian books including Molly Katzen's "Mooswood Cafe". Except I can't read the darned thing. It's written in a cursive font that is very distracting to the eye.

I like cookbooks that have clear and concise instructions. the author shouldn't miss out critical steps or instructions because they assume the reader knows already.

I read a recipe in a book once that said to soak the dried porcini mushrroms in hot water for 30 minutes then "discard the soaking liquid." So I discarded the book instead.

Jock
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
That soaking liquid would have made for a good reduction sauce or something why would they throw it out?
post #5 of 14
I prefer a chef written book that will give me some insight to his or her life, background,technique,style,likes and dislikes as much as recipes. Being such an old fart, I probably haven't stopped and thoroughly read a recipe in the last 10-20 books. It's getting harder and harder to find new things.
If it's strictly a recipe book, I prefer school,symphony,group,organizations, guilds cookbooks and books of that nature. They will always contain recipes handed down through generations and Mrs. Cleavers famous dohickies. I grab every one I can and they are pennies.
I just received one today called, Elementary Edibles. It's 291 pages of "recipes from our neighborhood" the West University Elementry PTA.
Martha Claire's Christening Casserole,Atomic Pasta,Ellen's Best in the World Ceviche, Rose Paolucci's Easter Bread,Memaw's Chocolate Coca-Cola Cake and Icing. Just opening the index. I can't put stuff like this down and have revised many recipes found like this.
Pan
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #6 of 14
My criteria are as follows...I don't buy books from Williams Sonoma or Sur La Tables for fear I may be run down by a soccer mom in her Hummer in a hurry to buy a fancy red toaster. Anything by Martha Stewart or Barefoot Contessa (Does that horrid Rachel Ray have a book out yet?), Emirl, or Mario Batali are only good for cannon fodder and wiping your a*s with. As food service professional, I'm more attracted to "ideas" than pre-thought out culinary distractions designed for those who "dabble with the stove once in a while". A lot of my mom's old cheesy cook books from the 60's have been some of my most favorite inspirations. I would say, stay away from contemporary stuff and go back in time a bit. The books will be less expensive and are more likely to give more direction and ideas...Joy of Cooking, baby!
post #7 of 14
I hate cookbooks with grey or other light colored print-usually set against a pastel background! Unreadable! I don't let my yearbook class use background/text combinations like that, and I absolutely HATE paying money for things I wouldn't allow in my class.
I like cookbooks that have information about the writer. And I especially like cookbooks that tell me the reason for doing the things suggested. Sort of like a cooking lesson.
The cookbooks from various groups like churches and towns are great. Sometimes they contain typos and other errors, but you can usually see it before it's too late.
más vale tarde que nunca
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más vale tarde que nunca
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post #8 of 14
Don't think I've ever bought a "cookbook". I'll buy professional books, and I'll buy cooking mags, but never cook books. That being said, I do get cookbooks for presents, or sometimes just given to me when people move house.

If the book written or supposedly written by a celebrity, it goes to the Sally-Ann. Flat-out refuse to look at it. If the recipie's amounts are given ONLY in cups, tsp, butter in 10 tbsp, mollases in 1/3 cups, it goes to the Sally-Ann. If the author can explain the hows and whys of a recipie, for instance why you should saute or roast tomato paste, why to blanch and press sweet breads, it's a keeper. I've got a very old battered up "Joy of Cooking" that I regulary consult.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #9 of 14
For me, a cookbook has to be a good read. I like them for inspiration more than for a recipe. I like to know the why's, the history, culture etc to get a feel. In the kitchen I already have a plan, for me cookbooks are for reading in a chair at the beach with a beer or laying on the sofa in the morning.

Tony
post #10 of 14
The joy of cooking was one of the first cook books I bought when I got serious about learning to cook. I still refer to it. I see from the reponses that I'm not the only one that enjoys this book. It has good recipes and tells the whys. After years of cooking I still can say I have not cooked everything. If I'm consulting a recipe its probably because I'm trying to learn something new. As a professional cook I want to know the whys not just follow a recipe. Tell me about the food and leave me more knowledgeable and I'm a happy camper. Has anyone ever checked out The Gentlemen's Companion. It's old school, but good.
post #11 of 14

Kinds of Cookbooks I like

I buy several different types of cookbooks:

1. The technique book. I learned a lot about basic cooking techniques from Julia Child, Pierre Franney, and similar others These lessons have served me well in developing my own recipes, in impromptu cooking, and in decoding poorly written recipes. I wish I knew a lot of this stuff when I was editing recipes for newspaper publication. I'm always learning.

2. The why book. I was trained as a scientist and believe in the experimental method as a path to at least some truths. As such I really enjoy cookbooks that teach me the science or at least the "why" behind what I'm doing. That's why I enjoy the books from the folks at Cook's Illustrated magazine (a/k/a America's Test Kitchen), Shirley Corriher's fine "Cookwise", Alton Brown (though I find the graphics in his books distracting), Arthur Grosser's "Cookbook Decoder", and similar volumes.

3. Books with interesting recipes. OK, I know how to do most of the usual stuff. Now come up with some recipes that make me say "Wow! I want to try that". A lot of these are ethnic books, but others are just plain creative ways of dealing with food. I'm even happier when the key ingredient is not something I have to order by express mail. Our copy of "Fifty Ways to Cook Anything" is falling apart from use.

4. Healthy cooking: Yeah, I eat too much and like all the wrong things. Show me creative ways to reduce fat, increase fiber, use more fresh produce. I'm suspicious of a lot of "healthy" cooking, and I find it hard to judge these books just by leafing through them, but I've found some real winners too. During the summer we're constantly reaching for Jim Bishop's vegetarian pasta book, for example.

5. Behind the scenes: I've written restaurant reviews but never actually worked in a professional kitchen. I'm fascinated by what goes on in there (my brother-in-law, a professional chef has kindly taken me behind the scenes a few times). So I like restaurant books, even if they are short on recipes.

Like some other previous posters, I don't like books whose typography or layout make them hard to read or use in the kitchen (I agree on the complaints about first edition of Moosewood, for example). In my journalism days, I did layout and design and definitely believe form follows function, especially in cookbooks.
post #12 of 14
My favourite cookbook is old, black and white printed cookbook from my mother. I like it because dishes from those recipes are always tasty.

But I have interested with this book because my mother has recommended it to me. Now I like colour pictures of dishes. I would rather make dishes I have seen before. But this old book make my imagine on.

So I can't give one criteria. One time I like colour pictures, another time I want checked recipes from old cookbooks.
I love home cooking - check my recipes if You wish.
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I love home cooking - check my recipes if You wish.
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post #13 of 14
Here are a few reasons why I buy cookbooks:
#1. Antique Value-since I already have a lot of cookbooks, editors proofs and freebees, I collect unique first editions. Of course, my prize copy is a 1st ed. of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia. It's only a 3rd printing, but still a treasure to me. Also, I have an Amy Vanderbilt cookbook that was illustrated by Andy Warhol. Not valuable, but kind of cool.
#2.Good writing with a strong sense of place and cultural connection. I love Bill Neal's Southern Cooking, Rick Bayless'sMexican Kitchen, and Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. For this reason I think Ina Garten's books are good in that they reflect her personality and the whole upscale Hampton's thing-not really my cup of tea, but her books really capture mood and place.
#3. Cookbooks on one particular subject or ingredient. They make me think of the subject in a whole new way. I love The New Taste of Chocolateby Maricel Presilla. It completely describes the history of chocolate in all its political and agricultural complexity and has some good recipes too.
#4. Basics that work, but I think I have all of them already. "Joy", "Fannie Farmer", BH&G, Mark Bittman & Betty Crocker. I don't, however, have Bittman's book where he takes on America's chefs-looks good.

I do not, with the exception of a limited few, buy books by restaurant chefs. The recipes are generally poorly written, poorly tested, devoid of any real personality with directions that are unnecessarily complicated or stupidly cryptic. Usually the pictures look terrible too. I wind up looking at them and wonder "What the heck IS that?"

www.foodandphoto.com

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #14 of 14
I enjoy reading books by Chefs who have been successful, have proven their worth in the real world. It's always a plus if it includes some background info on the chefs, maybe some insight into their philosophy on food. I'm not into recipes as much as I'm into techniques, but at the same time I like to know that every recipe in the book will be perfect. I'm not interested in cookbooks geared towards the home cook, rather towards the professional scene (all measurements in metric weights is nice). I'm also interested in the science behind cooking, and enjoy those types of books as well. I must say as well, I'm somewhat biased towards French language books.
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