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Rejects! The Cookbooks You Never Got Into

post #1 of 23
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What cookbooks were supposed to be hot and heavy but have left you cold and wanting?

I have recently purged my cookbook library of books whose spines had grown rigid with disuse. I hope these books will find better homes with more constant attention. I did not do this lightly. I gave these books twenty years to redeem themselves.

For me, the Silver Palate Cookbook and The Silver Palate Good Times cookbook were taking up valuable parking space on my shelves. I thought the layouts with the margins stuffed with additional information and the use of little known foodstuffs, like raspberry vinegar, were innovative and fun, but I have yet to retrace a recipe. As I flip through it now, it reminds me of those 80’s movies you had to see when they first came out, but skip them when they appear on cable.

My copy of Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook, circa 1983 is buckled and warped, it seems to have been steamed in a busy kitchen. Mind you, I love the current series of recipes in her magazine, but at this point in her career, there is so much unnecessary in these recipes, it heaves and strives awkwardly. I did not reach for this aid, after a full day of work, and even now, the pictures that I thought so beautiful then, barely give my longing eyes a moment’s respite. The golden girl had yet to achieve her elegant aura.

Wolfgang Puck’s Modern French Cooking for an American Kitchen has a constant backbeat, and that is of cream. Cream clots recipe after recipe, you would think that he was a big noise from Winnetka on the American Dairy board. When I bought this book, right after Puck had made a big splash with the restaurant Ma Maison and the daring new cooking trend, nouvelle cuisine, I had expected lighter more vibrant sauces and flavors, not ones murky with cream. Don’t get me wrong I happen to love cream. I used it often during my brief stint on the Atkins diet. Maybe that was the craze, Puck was meant to presage.

What noted books do you dare call awful?
post #2 of 23
I would never be inclined to purge Yvonne. Those cook books from the 70s that got all folksy, with men walking in shady glades with their beloveds, eating the latest pate from the folkiest possible wood slab. Their hipsters revealing their well developed love handles while the poor buggers tried to hold their stomachs in. It was tragic. But a lot of the recipes are jolly good. As for fashions? Well... best not to paricipate unless you are an anorexic 80 pounder. I will never part from a book, unless I consider it unbecoming to decency.
post #3 of 23
Oops and sorry, I was thinking more the pathetic than the strongly objectionable. In this matter I have to say Marie St Clair gives me the pip. It is more sneaky photography than anything. Nothing new, or even interesting.

And for those (Jamie Oliver included) think I am interested in double pages of (beautifully) photographed whole raw cabbages, or Jamie slouched against a wall, I have a warning. I can look at a recipe for 15 seconds, then I know it. Why buy a book of cabbages. I know what they look like. It is not 'arty' it is a swizz.

Clean your act up publishers, at the price of your books you owe us more than a printed fruit basket, I make them every day. I know it is geared by money, what isn't, but whose money is it? It's mine, and I will not pay for further nonsense.
post #4 of 23
The French Laundry and Bouchon. Read them each once, haven't picked them up in a long time since (years?). I guess they're not really bad books, but the rest of my collection is much more interesting.
post #5 of 23
I have many that I don't often use, but like Diane I would find it very hard to part with them. The only one I might consider 86'ng is my French Laundry. It is interesting but a little too anal for my taste (forgive the awful turn of a phrase)
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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post #6 of 23
Interesting. I may be the only one who loves The French Laundry so far. I've only made a couple of the dishes but they came out with spectacular results yielding unusual combinations that are surprisingly pleasing to the palatte. I appreciate the precision that went into the making of this cookbook and it provides insight into the precision at which Keller runs his kitchens and why he has earned the respect he has in the industry.

As for pics, I personally have very few cookbooks with many photos but there is definitely an audience that prefers beautiful photographs be a prerequisite before they lay down money. Hence, a variety on the market to please everyone.

I don't know how many of you visit used book stores, but they're a great place to trade in those you don't want for some treasures that are often out of print and not readily available at your local chain.
post #7 of 23
I got rid of the two or three menu cookbooks I had. I just haven't found them to be very helpful.
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post #8 of 23
I have many cookbooks I seldom even open but the idea of giving them away is out of the question. I don't know why really. I mean, someone gave me a copy of Martha Stewart's Entertaining once. I can't stand the woman and there is nothing she has to say about anything that holds any appeal for me. But still I won't give it up. I use my books more for research than for the exact recipes in them (although I do follow the recipes sometimes.) Maybe I'm thinking that one day I will need the book for a gem of information it contains regardless of how little I use it.

Jock
post #9 of 23
(Mudbug - I love The French Laundry). I tend to hold on to all books--my shelves are sagging as we speak--in particular cookbooks. I enjoy reading them more than I do "using" them. But I have found that the menu books and cutsie-gifty-item specific books are of absolutely no use whatsoever. (In particular Muffins by Francesca DiPaolo. Worst cookbook ever.)
post #10 of 23
Well, we are a funny old lot aren't we. I will never give a book, can't, sticks to my fingers. Except it be a book that I have, or it is useful to my kids further culinary adventures. Then I will buy 3, and give them one each. Jean said she was working on a couple, they will be must haves.
post #11 of 23
pitched.....Rose Levy Berenbaum books....the recipes did not work for me
New Joy of Cooking....oh man, to take a classic and maul it?!!!
Spa cookbooks from the 80's, Pluuuueeeese I think they were gifts

The ones that are tenuous but still hang around....game cookbooks or cookbooks of more obscure specialty cooking, probably never used but referred to once every decade.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #12 of 23
I know what you mean about the "new and improved" Joy of Cooking. :(

I'm like diane: I just can't get rid of a single one. Not even when I've bought the update, like Harold McGee. Because you never know when you'll need something in the original that they left out of later versions.

Since I don't often use any to actually cook from, I can't say which are not worth having. Well, maybe Sandra Lee -- but I got that when I thought I'd do a compare-and-contrast review of her first (pre-"update") against a similar but much better one (Half-Scratch Magic, by Linda West Eckhardt and Katherine West DeFoyd).

But to be honest, I've got books I've never even opened. Probably some of them are good for a :lol: or a :rolleyes: or even a :eek:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #13 of 23
Same boat here Suzanne. I know I have quite a few that I do not think I have ever turned a page in. I keep the key ones I use all the time by my computer the rest are in the book shelf under the TV. Does anyone ever buy a book on impulse? Thinking this one ought to be good only to get it home and find out you just blew $30!

Rgds Rook
post #14 of 23
Yes Rook, have to put my hand up. It is dissappointing, at best, to find to find pages of plate-itudes. "Why did I do it" I howl to myself, as I read the vaucous chatter of a good sort from Ekatahuna. One the other hand our long dead author will still have someone down country saying, "it was our Ena could make the best scones, it was, aahh yes".
post #15 of 23
It's also hard for me to give up ANY cookbook, the only 2 I can think of that I've donated to the local library within the last few years (there have been more-about 10, but I'm blocking)are the Cabbagetown Cafe ckbk (yes, I regret it) & the chocolate ckbk Rose Levy Beranbaum did w/ the Bernachons?-something about chocolate. I compulsively reread my cookbooks & magazines (although I am trying to reduce magazines)...
post #16 of 23
If you hate the French Laundry cookbook, it is probably just too complicated for you.
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Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

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post #17 of 23
Welcome, thistle! :D You raise a good point: cookbooks are not just for cooking; a lot of people (a lot of us, here ;) ) read them for fun, like novels or histories or travel books or some other interesting topic that takes us to a different time and place.

Jeebus: I just pulled out French Laundry to have a look. Yeah, some of the recipes are complicated -- that is, there are four or five separate subrecipes. But I don't think that's why people don't like the book; the directions are very clearly written, so anyone with good skills should be able to follow them. I think it's just that the perfection of the dishes seems so unattainable. Look at the photos: the height of "food porn"! Who of us at home has the skill or the time to garnish plates with vegetable brunoise? This is one of those "romance novels" -- great to read and dream about, but do I want to live it? Probably not.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #18 of 23
But the book is not really meant for the home cook, unless you are talking really enthusiastic cooks. Many of the recipes have sub recipes yes, but they really aren't that complicated. the food I do is food porn so I really love the book.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

www.azurerestaurant.ca
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Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

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post #19 of 23
I have thumbed through the book at the bookstore looks pretty good but I have never been able to justify the price. I am a fan of French cusine especially the dessert side of the house and do have some French cookbooks. I tend to agree with you Jeebus and Suzanne. Kind of straddling the fence on this one...

Rgds Rook
post #20 of 23
I have tons of cookbooks and seem to always go to the same few when wanting to look something up. I found a web site that has some good recipes/books http://www.hottobuyzone.4t.com when you get there click on the fun for kids tab find the list COOKING.
post #21 of 23
The French Laundary (and TK's food) in general is not too complicated, it is needlessly complicated... Why cook something from the French Laundry when I can look through Michel Bras' book, Ducasse's encyclopedia, or one of Pierre Gagnaire's recipes? Or even better, cook something original? Thomas Keller's recipes are overly contrived, nothing more than an American spin on French dishes... There are no techniques that are unique to the book, honestly, nothing sets this book apart to make it even worth reading.

This is slightly off-topic, but theres a whole other issue of modern 'fine dining'. It seems so much nowadays is based on presentation, on the 'porn' aspect of things. So much effort is put into the visual of a dish, or the shock element (think molecular gastronomy), that flavour is lost in the process. Forget a creative presentation to a dish, I want truly creative flavour combinations. When I look at the French Laundry cookbook, I see pedestrian food dressed up to look 'elegant'. Not everyone is impressed by outward appearances alone...

Theres a reason Thomas Keller's first restaurant failed, and why it took him so many years to even be recognized as a 'top' chef...

To suggest that not liking TK's book is due to inability is downright insulting, but not surprising when complexity and presentation are held in higher regard than flavour...(or at least given more importance in the conception of a dish)

If I want to be truly challenged intellectually and technically, I'll look through Pierre Gagnaire and Hervé This' book "La Cuisine", or make something out of Hermé's "ph10". Both are much more technical and interesting than Thomas Keller's books, but of course are only available in the French language (for now)....
post #22 of 23
I think a dish can be eye pleasing in regards to presentation and still have flavor.But then like I said I have only thumbed through the book in bookstores and cannot justify the price at the moment. While we are on the subject and I know this is off topic and not trying to hijack the thread but just how much thought do you give to presentation in preparation of a dish 50% 75% more?

Rgds Rooks
post #23 of 23
I compose a dish with absolutely no thought to presentation. 0%. The only thoughts I give a dish are flavour, aroma, texture, temperature (texture and temperature affect the way we taste things to a very large degree). Now, I obviously don't put food onto the plate any which way, of course we do very nice presentations, but they are not the focus when conceptualizing the dish if that makes any sense....

Nothing gets put on the plate as a 'garnish' just for the sake of it. If I use a certain garnish, it's because I intend it to be eaten with or alongside a certain element of the plate (for instance some green apple gelée and julienne with roquefort cheese - a nice little play on textures with the gelée and raw apple, it's a nice looking garnish but very functional). Now, when you want certain elements of a dish eaten together in the same bite you're going to change your presentation a bit, lead the customer's eyes to a certain section of the plate. Or if you want 2 elements eaten separately to provide a contrast you space them apart.

But when planning a dish, I think about flavours and textures I want, make it happen, and place it on the dish in a way that makes sense and properly converys the feeling I want to pass on to the guest.

I liken it to an artist - the good ones don't 'try' to make things look 'good' - they go with a feeling, an emotion, put it to canvas, and make it come alive... They aren't thinking 'Oh, that will look good on canvas', they are only concerned with giving the viewer the message that was the inspiration in the first place. Or with music - the best music is always that which has a message or a story, a feeling that is conveyed through music and prose... The music that 'tries' to be 'good' is what we know as commercial junk... For all the great artists out there, in any field, there are dozens of fakers...
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