"Must Have" Cookbooks?

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by tylerm713, Aug 10, 2010.

  1. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I think a lot of it comes across to me the same way Bittmann does: Someone writing as a deep authority who really doesn't have the depth of knowledge they claim. Whether that's a factual view is up for debate I suppose but they strike me as fakes.

    Rose tends to toss around jargon needlessly when simpler clarity would serve her better and the presentation and writing of the recipes is needlessly complex.

    I write professionally too, so it could just be my own professional sensibilities that they offend.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
  2. missyjean

    missyjean

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     I, myself, use a certain level of vocabulary when speaking to people with whom I converse professionally. 

    I really don't know anything about Rose's background. The only thing I have read about Rose is that The Cake Bible was her thesis. Please correct me if I am wrong.  

    All I can say is I have had great success with her recipes. I make her recipes for special occasions and they always WOW everyone..so much so that people have told me I should open a bakery. Believe me, it has nothing to do with my skill other than the fact that I can read and follow directions carefully. 

    On Bittmann, I totally agree with you. Browsing his books at the local Border's only reinforces my opinion.

    It is really cool that you are a writer. May I ask the genre of your writing?

    I am very new to baking and want to read anything I can find which will improve my skills and broaden my knowledge. I really would love to go enroll in the local college's Pastry class.  I am considering it and hoping to get my husband to agree.

    ~missy
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    It's the kind of writing everyone hates. I'm a technical writer, usually software manuals and on-line help systems, occasional web sites and other business writing.
     
  4. missyjean

    missyjean

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    Wow! How did you get into that? It's not that I hate that writing but, for me, it is very hard to follow.  I need someone to show me how to do something. I have a difficult time with reading instructions
     
  5. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I think, MissyJean, what's at odds here is only orientation.

    As you've made clear in the past, your interest in cookbooks is the quality of the recipes. If they work, and produce a great dish (or, in this case, baked good) you're happy. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    But that is different from judging a book by the quality of its writing, which is what Phil is doing. Is the writing clear and concise? Does it flow smoothly? Does it communicate without talking down to its audience? Etc.

    So, based on the comments made here (I've never read any of Rose's books), what we have are poorly written books with great recipes. Which makes you both correct.
     
  6. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    There's a lot of bad technical writing out there. I've written some terrible things too, particularly in my first job writing for internal banking (credit card stuff). I got into it as a back door into high tech businesses. I like high technology but am not an engineer, rather an English major with a strong geek bent. Very little of my work has been widely seen as the target audiences are quite small. Probably my widest seen work was part of the website for 3com and USRobotics in their merger.
     
  7. missyjean

    missyjean

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    Oh, I didn't understand that was the issue. Still, IMO, I don't see the book as being poorly written.  From a consumers point of view,  I find it clear and concise.  I was able to duplicate the desired results in appearance and, I hope, in taste. 

    If I am understanding you correctly, I would have to say there are a lot of books out there, such as The Baker's Companion by King Arthur Flour, whose recipes are not that easy to follow.  If I hadn't learned what to look for when I cream butter and sugar, for example., from Rose's books, I would have great difficulty successfully duplicating KA's recipes as they go into no detail about whatt to look for, etc.
     
  8. missyjean

    missyjean

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    Did you know this field existed before you got this position? I didn't know until you told me. I think it is great and you must be a very well-qualified writer to get this position.
     
  9. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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  10. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Interesting, Phil, that your first technical writing job was in the banking industry. So was mine. One of the worst experiences of my life!

    This guy had written a book: Mini- and Micro-Computers In The Banking Environment. Shows you how far back we're talking. The editor who hired me hands me the manuscript, with no guidelines of any kind, and goes off on vacation.

    Literally every time the guy referred to the equipment he used the term "mini- and micro-computers in the banking environment." And he referred to it a lot. Never said "small computers," or "the equipment," or even just "computers." Mini- and micro-computers in the banking environment every damn time. Very boring. And all my attempts to make it more interesting were overturned by the editor once she came back.

    Suffice to say, I've never again written anything for the banking industry.
     
  11. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I hated the bank writing too. At one point, I belonged to a consulting firm who kept trying to sell me back to the same bank. I kept turning down the job...
     
  12. missyjean

    missyjean

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  13. missyjean

    missyjean

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    I imagine being a food writer is a lot of fun. And, you are so knowledgeable on the subject. You have been a great source of assistance to me on this forum.  Thank you
     
  14. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Shssssh, MissyJean. We never admit that it's fun, or they come and take the money back. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif

    Always reminds me of General Joe Engels story about growing up to first become a pilot, then a test pilot, and finally an astronaut. Finishes up by saying, "and they did. They put me in a rocket ship and sent it out into space. And you know what, they still paid me." He looks around conspiratorally and says, "Don't tell anyone, but I'd have paid them!"
     
  15. missyjean

    missyjean

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    /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
  16. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    +1 on dissing Rose's cookbooks....recipes didn't work for me

    In the Sweet Kitchen b Regan Daley or any of Maida Heatter's books are wonderful.

    I threw out Bittman's and the new Joy of Cooking... I only give and use older versions.

    Joy has got to be the most used book in my library.  Everything else is piecemealed for specific recipes...ie John Folse's biegnets, Paul Prudhomme's Mama's rolls,

    Wolfgang Puck's Caramel, Amaretti from Julia Child's baking book, Lavosh from an old cuisinart magazine, Mayo from Prudhomme, Lemon curd from a newspaper 30 years ago, etc....

    99% of the time I rely on the techniques gleaned from years of reading and cooking from many of the cookbooks you list....At some point you learn what flavor profiles you enjoy, how to prep and cook food....needing recipes occasionally to remind you proportions and in some cases ingredients.  When you work with chefs they just list off ingredients, give shorthand directions and assume you know when it's done.

    That's one of my favorite inside jokes with a restauranter-farmer friend, " cook until done".
     
  17. cookinmt

    cookinmt

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    I found an old, tattered copy of The Original Thai Cookbook in the back of my garage the other day, probably forgotten by the previous tenant, and it's rapidly becoming one of my favorites.  Hardly a "Must Have" though, for most people.
     
  18. siduri

    siduri

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    I was really disappointed when i read Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  The only, ONLY thing i got from it is to fry something by first dipping in yoghurt and then flour, which he mentions for chicken pieces but it's wonderful for anything. 

    I call the book "How to cook everything you already know how to cook".  I don;t mean that in a snobby way, after all after some 45 years of cooking and researching recipes I do know how to cook most of the usual things, it's just a result of many years cooking.  However, it was a disappointment in my expectations, because i expected to learn to cook all kinds of new things.  Everything, in fact.  Also when someone calls their book "how to cook everything" I don't expect him to say "well, i really don't much like baking and you don't really need to bake much so here are just a couple of recipes".   

    As for Cook's Illustrated Baking, I have mixed feelings.  Some stuff is great and some stuff is not. I don;t think mine came out wrong but i think the way they intended it was not great.  But others are really great, no question.  I do add more salt in the case of that cookbook, it seems the things are undersalted to my taste. 

    However some things are just WAY too fussy.  I was persuaded by my daughter to try to use their recipe for french toast (recipe for french toast? weird already, but it was indeed a recipe).  This was from their american family cookbook i thin, not Baking and i don;t remember what i made from Baking that i wasn;t happy with but it's the same people.  For me french toast is: you mix egg and a little milk and some salt. You cut some bread and dip them in this eggy stuff.  Heat a frying pan - add some butter, let it foam and then cook the bread.  (and that's the complicated complete version of the recipe.)  But this was full of stuff , flour, sugar, it was very complicated too, and dirtied many objects in the kitchen (not a problem in a test kitchen, but we have no one cleaning up after us, and my daughter has no dishwasher).  And in the end, i really didn;t like it.  Too sweet, too much.  Not in the cookbook but in the magazine was a recipe for banana bread -  put the bananas in a microwave and extract the juice.  Extract the JUICE??!!?? I make banana bread and it really tastes of bananas but i don;t have to go doing acrobatics to get it.  It seems like the recipe of someone who has nothing better to do. 

    I find Rose's recipes are perfectly explained and come out very well. Not sure if her science is correct since i'm ignorant of that, but her way of writing is certainly very confidence-inspiring.  (I made my daughters 6 layer 3 tiered chocolate fudge wedding cake with white chocolate cream cheese crumb coat under the home made fondant, and raspberry dark chocolate ganache between the layers.  I felt the book guided me completely and it came out beautifully, praised by everyone as the best wedding cake they ever ate, and some said the best CAKE they ever ate.  All done in 95 degree heat without air conditioning, with some added suggestions from rose herself on her website.  In fact, every cake i;ve tried has come out well, though I don;t like all the cakes that she has (you can take genoise and use it to line the rubbish bin, but that's not her fault, that's just genoise, and just my taste).  Some were wonderful surprises, like the cordon rose banana cake with chocolate ganache.  And those elaborate caged cakes, the way she writes it looks like i could probably pull them off if i followed the recipe. 

    I find however, that she is too fussy sometimes about ingredients.  In one of her bread recipes (bread i say!) she has something like two cups plus one tablespoon flour.  Now really, come on.  I think that level of precision does put people off and bread making is SO forgiving.  So much room for error. 

    And if i ever do write a cookbook, i know what the first criticism will be.  TOO VERBOSE.  sorry guys. 
     
  19. cookinmt

    cookinmt

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    Tell that to BDL's editor.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
  20. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I was really disappointed when i read Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

    There are some of us here, Siduri, who find anything Bittman writes to be disappointing.

    He's definately a legend in his own mind. However, it's not your years of experience that's at fault. Unless you've been living under a culinary rock your entirely life, Bittman doesn't teach you how to cook anything, let alone everything. And he does it in a long-winded, rather boring manner. About the only cookbook I know that's worse than How To Cook Everything it's his sequel, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.
     
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