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Christopher Kimball writeup in today's NYT

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/magazine/cooks-illustrateds-christopher-kimball.html?ref=magazine

 

It's a bit overwritten in places, but an interesting profile that made it clearer to me what the _Cook's Illustrated_ niche is.  This  was interesting:

 

"At the core of C.I.’s M.O. are two intrepid observations Kimball has made about the innermost psychology of home cooks. Namely that they 1) are haunted by a fear of humiliation, and 2) will not follow a recipe to the letter, believing that slavishly following directions is an implicit admission that you cannot cook."

 

I've always found CI geekishly fascinating because it pursues the kind of questions I ask when I cook, but at the same time totally insufferable: smug and cheerless.  And I *am* interested in pleasure, which Kimball disdains.

post #2 of 7

I love the recipes for Cooks Illustrated. For the most part, the work very, very well and always have some little " lagniappe" that makes the flavor sing. For example, their Black Bean Soup has a finish of a little fresh lime juice at the end that, while it doesn't make the soup "limey", brightens the overall flavor profile.

Their equipment and ingredient testing and evaluation is very helpful too. The article recommending oven thermometers was very helpful because many of the ones I was using (I regularly use about 6 different ovens) were not reliable.

As a professional recipe developer who writes for the home cook, I look to CI for valuable information to make my recipes better and more accessible. 

They're not about the "Art" of cooking, but lead cooks to hone their craft without a bunch of folderol.

www.foodandphoto.com

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

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www.foodandphoto.com

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

Reply
post #3 of 7

Very interesting read although I couldn't get through all of it, it's very long.  I adore CI, it's one of my favorite shows which is surprising because I also love Jamie Oliver style of cooking (you know... a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and don't worry whatever you do you can't mess this up) so it's a wonder I enjoy a show about exact measurements and specific details on cooking.  But I have to concede that whenever I've made a recipe from CI it has always come out perfect.  Learning how to make a eye-round beef roast by following a CI procedure was indeed life changing.

 

After reading about Kimball's despise for the idea that food is celebration and passion I am reminded of the great controversy between Brahms and Wagner.  Wagner you see believed that music was emotion in itself.  That music has the power to move people and stir their innermost longings.  Wagner's music tends to be highly emotionally charged and very long in some cases if you don't mind sitting through a 6hr opera.  Brahms on the other hand felt that music was just a bunch of notes strung together with the exactness of mathematical equations.  He believed that no real emotion lived within the notes and if his music stirred emotion in the listener he'd probably roll his eyes and deem it their own problem.

 

Sorry for the rant, but I just realized that Kimball is like Brahms, who is one of my favorite composers... while Wagner is my least favorite.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 7

I'm glad to see him admit that what they do is not the "Best".

 

I have a good stack of their magazines and cookbooks, but I find I use them less and less. They were very helpful at a certain point of my learning curve and I'm glad they're out there doing what they do.  I like their cookware comparisons. I'm not so impressed with their taste testing, I think how they report it is flawed.

post #5 of 7

Interesting article.  I'm only halfway done with it an dcan't wait to finish.

 

I have a love-hate feeling about CI.  On the love side is the way they address questions of "why" and "how"... which are important to know.  On the hate side is the fussiness (is there really only one way to do everything) and the appearance of arrogance.  I find CI most useful for troubleshooting my failures rather than serving as step-by-step cooking rules.  I am one of his demographic, I suppose:  I fear humilation of serving crappy food, and I feel that havingot follow recipes step-by-step implies that I don't know enough technique/flavors to adapt to my taste and existing cooking equipment/tools.

post #6 of 7

p.s.  Wagner.

post #7 of 7

I used to subscribe but got tired of reviews that said "subscribe for online content to see the rest". I won't pay extra for online access to a magazine.

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