Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Worst. Cookbook. Ever.

Cookbook

  • Please log in to reply
85 replies to this topic

#31 Chris Hennes

Chris Hennes

    Director of Operations

  • manager
  • 7,887 posts
  • Location:Norman, Oklahoma

Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:46 PM

How about a sample recipe? How are we supposed to evaluate?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org


#32 Edward J

Edward J
  • participating member
  • 1,133 posts

Posted 24 August 2010 - 09:32 PM

The other day I was browsing in a used bookstore. Not much to offer--the usual zillion microwave cookbooks, and... what's this? A Suzanne Sommer's cookbook?

The clerk was watching me, seeing if I was gullable enough to crack it open. Strangely, the clerk's stare brought back a memory of when I was 18 and "shopping" for my first car: Peering through the windows of Chevelles and Dusters, checking out the mileage; and there, in the middle of the lot was an AMC Pacer, the car lot operator breathless, straining to see if I was gullable enough to peek through the window of that one............

#33 Anna N

Anna N
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 5,362 posts
  • Location:Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Posted 25 August 2010 - 02:43 AM


I haven't read it, but the New York Times recent hailed the reprint of the I Hate to Cook Book in a recent book review, which described it as a cookbook for those "who appreciate...processed-cheese, canned-soup and alcohol-laden recipes..." Sounds like a contender.


In my opinion, not even a distant contender.
....


Thank you for coming to Peg's defence, Andie. There was a time when I truly hated cooking. I had 3 kids, a full-time job and was attending university to complete my degree part-time. I had an hour between arriving home from work and heading off to uni to feed the kids and my husband. Peg was my other "best friend".
Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

"It either works fine or not, but what the heck. This is bread, not birth control." Susan of Wild Yeast blog
Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog
My 2004 eG Blog

#34 NadyaDuke

NadyaDuke
  • participating member
  • 64 posts

Posted 25 August 2010 - 08:21 AM

I adore Peg Bracken, as well. Her books are thoroughly entertaining. And while some recipes do rely on canned soup or processed cheese spread, a lot do not and are quite sensible recipes with real food.

I think the standards for what constitutes easy cooking are a lot different now. I have a Betty Crocker cookbook from 1960 or so and It gives the impression that an easy cake was a scratch cake where you didn't have to beat egg whites by hand. Whereas now cookbooks have to explain how to mix butter and sugar because they can't assume people know what "cream" means.

#35 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,129 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 25 August 2010 - 09:24 AM



I haven't read it, but the New York Times recent hailed the reprint of the I Hate to Cook Book in a recent book review, which described it as a cookbook for those "who appreciate...processed-cheese, canned-soup and alcohol-laden recipes..." Sounds like a contender.


In my opinion, not even a distant contender.
....


Thank you for coming to Peg's defence, Andie. There was a time when I truly hated cooking. I had 3 kids, a full-time job and was attending university to complete my degree part-time. I had an hour between arriving home from work and heading off to uni to feed the kids and my husband. Peg was my other "best friend".



Exactly my point. There was a time when I had three teenagers at home, a full time job during the week and was spending every weekend showing dogs, both my own and others (for pay to support my own entry fees and travel expenses). The available time for planning, shopping and preparing meals was extremely limited and I got little or no help from my husband or the kids (until sometime later when I laid down the LAW!)

The recipes in Peg Bracken's book saved my sanity (and possibly the life of my husband) as the kids would willing consume "Sweep Steak," "Pedro's Special," "Old Faithful" and "Maxie's Franks" without complaint.
Later, the kids learned to make some of these on their own, which took a big load off my shoulders. My husband was never "into" cooking, although he could construct a mean sandwich and often did lunch prep duty.

I tried a lot of "easy to fix" recipe books but this one really made a big difference for me.
The fact that it remained popular for over a generations must mean that other people also found it helpful - and fun.
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#36 Nyleve Baar

Nyleve Baar
  • participating member
  • 207 posts

Posted 25 August 2010 - 06:38 PM

The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt. Includes such family pleasers as Soybean and Nut Loaf, Green Revolution Breakfast (apple, raisins, wheat grass, wheat germ and lecithin granules), Consciousness III Pudding (including carob powder, among other things) and Fruit Bat Soup. It's a classic. AND it's the New York Times!

#37 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,622 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 25 August 2010 - 06:59 PM

Consciousness III Pudding[.]


No way.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#38 NadyaDuke

NadyaDuke
  • participating member
  • 64 posts

Posted 25 August 2010 - 07:39 PM

The one cookbook that has left my collection with extreme prejudice was Great Good Food by Julee Rosso. That cookbook was so poorly written: ingredients were listed and never used and vice versa as I recall.

#39 Nyleve Baar

Nyleve Baar
  • participating member
  • 207 posts

Posted 26 August 2010 - 12:41 PM

Consciousness III Pudding[.]


No way.


Yes way. Want the recipe?

#40 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,622 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 26 August 2010 - 12:43 PM

I'll take one order of CR and a couple pounds of instant karma, please.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#41 DanM

DanM
  • participating member
  • 869 posts

Posted 28 August 2010 - 06:15 PM

I have been going back and forth on whether or not to share this "cookbook". This was given to my mom by my brother's ex-wife as a joke... a bad one at that. It is in poor taste and may violate the TOS, so my apologies if this offends anyone.

You have been warned

Click to view..
http://forums.egulle...6368_179151.jpg

And a sample from the book...
http://forums.egulle...6368_661575.jpg
"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

#42 ChrisZ

ChrisZ
  • participating member
  • 398 posts
  • Location:Sydney

Posted 28 August 2010 - 06:50 PM

There are so, so many ways a cookbook can be bad.
It makes it hard to choose the single worst.
For lack of ambition and down-market down-dumbing, Chris Hennes is spot on with the genre of equipment instruction recipe books.
For impracticality, the category would likely be headed by The Fat Duck Cookbook and The French Laundry.


I agree that there are different ways a cookbook can be bad, which is why I disagree that the Fat Duck Cookbook is bad. I have it and I haven't cooked anything out of it, and I probably won't. But as a source of inspiration it is unparalleled. It's the only "cookbook" I have that can be read more or less like a novel and that imparts all sorts of useful knowledge, and that changes the way you think about food. You could argue that it pushes the boundaries of what a "cookbook" is by going beyond a collection of recipes and into psychology and science and cooking methodology. From this perspective it's the single most valuable cookbook I have, even if I never cook anything in it.

As a point of comparison I have lots of cookbooks on chocolate that are all interchangeably bland. They all have a few pages at the front on the history of chocolate, how it's made, where it comes from, etc etc. Then they have a bunch of recipes that are all pretty much the same, perhaps with some drinks shoehorned in at the end, and probably some recipes that don't need chocolate but it's been added anyway. The photos are pretty but the actual content is just plain average. The recipes are much more accessible that those in the Fat Duck cookbook but I'm no more likely to make anything because none of it is really interesting, and the entire book is forgettable so it just sits on the shelf gathering dust with all the others.

The difference is that after reading the Fat Duck cookbook I feel inspired about food, I have learnt a bunch of techniques and methods I have not heard of before, and I want to explore new techniques and become a better cook. After reading a generic chocolate cookbook I just want to eat chocolate.

#43 JAZ

JAZ
  • manager
  • 4,886 posts
  • Location:Atlanta

Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:13 PM

There might be different ways a cookbook can be bad, but I submit that a cookbook with a recipe for Banana Salad Dressing is bad by any measure: mashed banana mixed with mayonnaise, peanut butter and evaporated milk, meant to be served on fruit salad.

The book? The Use-It-Up Cookbook, which has a ton of suggestions for using up leftover foods, none of which sound appetizing at all.

#44 Mjx

Mjx

    Senior Host

  • host
  • 5,683 posts

Posted 16 November 2010 - 10:59 AM

I wish I knew the name of the cookbook that supplied my mother with the recipe for 'nutmeat' (which is something like meatloaf, without meat, or any of its charm), since that would, on the basis of that recipe alone, win the prize for worst cookbook.
It also made such things as whole-meal angel-food cake, gelatin desserts using agar-agar and poorly dissolved brown sugar, and the gnarliest rice pudding I have ever eaten, see light of day

But that nutmeat is what makes the cookbook take first prize as the cookbook from Hell. My parents became vegetarian when I was about two, and nutmeat still makes an annual appearance on my family's Thanksgiving Day table. Until I lived far enough away (the other side of the Atlantic) to have an honest excuse for not making an appearance, Thanksgiving Day meant a quiet, smouldering brawl between my father and myself, over whether or not I would eat the nutmeat (I didn't: it has the consistency of what I imagine a blend of chopped worms and sawdust packed into a loaf to have, and smells like wet dog).

Anybody have any idea of what cookbook this might be?


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Senior Host, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org


#45 heidih

heidih
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 10,648 posts
  • Location:Los Angeles

Posted 16 November 2010 - 11:44 AM

Mjx- that sounds like Diet for A Small Planet perhaps?

#46 Mjx

Mjx

    Senior Host

  • host
  • 5,683 posts

Posted 16 November 2010 - 12:10 PM

Mjx- that sounds like Diet for A Small Planet perhaps?


Eh, that sounds possible, since that is a book I recall my mother having. Now I'm feeling sort of ashamed... Did I mention my parents became vegetarian for ethical reasons? I never did understand the hair-shirt approach to eating healthily/ethically.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Senior Host, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org


#47 TheFuzzy

TheFuzzy
  • participating member
  • 93 posts
  • Location:San Francisco

Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:10 AM

All,

I'm gonna vote against Moosewood and Epicure. While neither cookbook is worth keeping, there are much worse vegetarian cookbooks out there. I actually had Veg Ep during college, and it introduced me to the idea that non-American ethnicities make better vegetarian food, even if the recipes were a bit uneven. And when I got rid of it, there were a couple recipes I copied out (mind you, only a couple). I also still have a copy of Great Good Food, which suffers from horrible editing but does have some good recipes.

For much worse: VeggieLife Magazine, which attempts to publish recipes which are not only vegetarian, but low-salt, no-white-flour, no-white-sugar, and low-fat at the same time. Frequently without spices. Too bad they didn't publish a cookbook, or I'd have a real contestant.

Instead, let me throw Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker into the ring. This has the virtue of both being terrible 70's style veggie food, *and* a crock-pot cookbook. Not one recipe in the book is remotely usable, and several have serious ingredient-instructions mismatches. Link: http://www.amazon.co...89977737&sr=1-1

This other book should be a shoe-in, but it's severely out of print:
http://www.amazon.co...89977616&sr=1-1

Finally, that "nutmeat" might have also been from the Hare Krishna Cookbook (not a candidate for Worst, since the Indian recipes are pretty good). Recipe here: http://www.fuzzychef...ut-02-2008.html

Edited by TheFuzzy, 17 November 2010 - 12:12 AM.

The Fuzzy Chef
www.fuzzychef.org
Think globally, eat globally
San Francisco

#48 Dakki

Dakki
  • participating member
  • 1,047 posts

Posted 19 March 2011 - 06:26 PM

Most unfortunately-named cookbook ever. I don't own it so I can't comment on the actual content.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#49 rarerollingobject

rarerollingobject
  • participating member
  • 775 posts
  • Location:Sydney, Australia.

Posted 19 March 2011 - 06:52 PM

I have been going back and forth on whether or not to share this "cookbook". This was given to my mom by my brother's ex-wife as a joke... a bad one at that. It is in poor taste and may violate the TOS, so my apologies if this offends anyone.

You have been warned

Click to view..
http://forums.egulle...6368_179151.jpg

And a sample from the book...
http://forums.egulle...6368_661575.jpg


WHOAH. Was this given after or shortly before she became an ex-wife?? :laugh:

#50 minas6907

minas6907
  • participating member
  • 595 posts

Posted 27 April 2011 - 10:11 PM

Most unfortunately-named cookbook ever. I don't own it so I can't comment on the actual content.


Haha, check out this review:

"Finally a cook book that tells you how to complete the human digestive process. After your meal has been processed by your body, only waste remains. "Cooking With Pooh" shows you how to take that waste and recycle it into delicious treats. I had no idea that pooh could be used in so many dishes! Every recipe is low in fat although they all taste like crap."

I love the last line.

#51 BadRabbit

BadRabbit
  • participating member
  • 690 posts
  • Location:Birmingham, AL

Posted 28 April 2011 - 07:00 AM

My wife makes a version of the Moosewood spanikopita that is actually pretty decent. I don't know how much she's changed it but I do know that's where the original recipe came from. I've never eaten anything else from the book so I can't comment on it as a whole.

As for my nomination, my wife got a cupcake book for Christmas that is essentially just a bunch of combination of boxed mixes and canned frosting.

A recipe looks like this:
1 box chocolate cake mix (prepared as directed by box)
1 can vanilla frosting
and then there is usually an additional item like a red licorice stick to use as decoration in coms manner.

It's the laziest cookbook I've ever seen. The complexity of a Sandra Lee recipe looks like one of Thomas Keller's next to this cookbook.

Edited by BadRabbit, 28 April 2011 - 07:00 AM.


#52 Andrew Fenton

Andrew Fenton
  • participating member
  • 3,352 posts
  • Location:Philadelphia

Posted 28 April 2011 - 11:59 AM

Comparing Vegetarian Epicure and Moosewood Cookbook to see which is worse is sort of like trying to decide whether a flat tire or a shattered windshield is worse. They both really, really suck.


To give credit where it's due, Anna Thomas eventually realized that the Vegetarian Epicure sucked, and wrote a new book. The New Vegetarian Epicure isn't a bad cookbook.

#53 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,622 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 28 April 2011 - 12:08 PM

Cool. What makes it better?
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#54 lancastermike

lancastermike
  • legacy participant
  • 1,354 posts

Posted 28 April 2011 - 12:30 PM

I have to nominate everything written by Sandra Lee.

But there is no way to nominate just one book or author. There are too many church cookbooks (which must secretly be sponsored by Jello and Campbell's). I grew up eating "hotdish" and Jello salad made from these books that made the Moosewood Cookbook recipes seem downright heavenly. Really.

I know the church cookbooks are still in frequent use because at my grandfather's funeral in 2006, I counted no fewer than 14 different Jello salads.

For baking, yesterday I saw the worst book I have ever seen. It was a cupcake book and it looked like the decorations were done by the slow kindergarten class. I cannot believe any editor or publisher could have signed off on that one.


Have you ever even looked at something written by Sandra Lee that allows you to make this blanket statement?
I don't think there is another person in the food world who gets less respect than Sandra Lee on EG. I don't cook like she does and you don't either. But guess what? Lots of folks do. If if her books and TV shows inspire a person to at least attempt some sort of cooking, even if it is modified with ready made stuff instead of feeding their family fast food or frozen pizza I think she has accomplished some very positive thing. Perhaps the person that tries to cook a little bit may one day find they like it and want to do more. That same person will most likely never have a chamber vacaum sealer or a sous vide supreme. But they may wonder how that boneless chicken breast tastes if seasoned a different way.

The worst cookbook ever is Sandra Lee's ? I disagree

Edited by lancastermike, 28 April 2011 - 01:01 PM.


#55 Tess

Tess
  • participating member
  • 1,310 posts

Posted 28 April 2011 - 12:32 PM

Not a book, but the Weight Watchers Recipe Cardsare classic. Even today, look through the diet cookbook section and you'll find a lot of gross things.

#56 toolprincess

toolprincess
  • participating member
  • 291 posts

Posted 28 April 2011 - 12:48 PM

I have to nominate everything written by Sandra Lee.

But there is no way to nominate just one book or author. There are too many church cookbooks (which must secretly be sponsored by Jello and Campbell's). I grew up eating "hotdish" and Jello salad made from these books that made the Moosewood Cookbook recipes seem downright heavenly. Really.

I know the church cookbooks are still in frequent use because at my grandfather's funeral in 2006, I counted no fewer than 14 different Jello salads.

For baking, yesterday I saw the worst book I have ever seen. It was a cupcake book and it looked like the decorations were done by the slow kindergarten class. I cannot believe any editor or publisher could have signed off on that one.


I have a soft spot in my heart for Jello salads.

#57 mbhank

mbhank
  • participating member
  • 143 posts
  • Location:Torrance, CA

Posted 28 April 2011 - 01:23 PM

Many years ago Paul Bocuse had a cookbook published in the US. It was a disaster. Even Julia Child said it was terrible. He included recipes that were typically French like ham braised in hay and sauteed Ortolans. Ortolans are a French songbird that is considered a delicacy. Something like braised Robins in country gravy. I still have the book.
'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

#58 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,622 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 28 April 2011 - 01:33 PM

Which one? This? I've got it (garage sale) and haven't cooked from it....
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#59 Dakki

Dakki
  • participating member
  • 1,047 posts

Posted 28 April 2011 - 01:36 PM


I have to nominate everything written by Sandra Lee.

But there is no way to nominate just one book or author. There are too many church cookbooks (which must secretly be sponsored by Jello and Campbell's). I grew up eating "hotdish" and Jello salad made from these books that made the Moosewood Cookbook recipes seem downright heavenly. Really.

I know the church cookbooks are still in frequent use because at my grandfather's funeral in 2006, I counted no fewer than 14 different Jello salads.

For baking, yesterday I saw the worst book I have ever seen. It was a cupcake book and it looked like the decorations were done by the slow kindergarten class. I cannot believe any editor or publisher could have signed off on that one.


Have you ever even looked at something written by Sandra Lee that allows you to make this blanket statement?
I don't think there is another person in the food world who gets less respect than Sandra Lee on EG. I don't cook like she does and you don't either. But guess what? Lots of folks do. If if her books and TV shows inspire a person to at least attempt some sort of cooking, even if it is modified with ready made stuff instead of feeding their family fast food or frozen pizza I think she has accomplished some very positive thing. Perhaps the person that tries to cook a little bit may one day find they like it and want to do more. That same person will most likely never have a chamber vacaum sealer or a sous vide supreme. But they may wonder how that boneless chicken breast tastes if seasoned a different way. Sandra Lee also grew up and often went hungry in her early life whern her family situation was tough.

The worst cookbook ever is Sandra Lee's ? I disagree


I started writing a list of reasons why Sandra Lee is the Rodney Dangerfield of food celebrities, but I got bored. Instead I'll just say, having seen a number of episodes of her show on YouTube (the Kwanzaa cake ep is a favorite), in my not actually in any way humble opinion she's a terrible cook who is far more likely to turn people off cooking than on.

If you're going to insist on sounding like my Nana, telling people about the poor child S. Lee loading trucks for a bowl of potato soup or whatever, I'm going to have to point out that 578 million malnourished people in Asia and the Pacific aren't pushing recipe books and cookware on TV.

Finally, Sandra Lee is maybe not the worst cookbook writer ever - we'd have to go through every single cookbook ever written to determine who that is - but she is not good, either as a cook or as an influence on the general public, by any stretch of the imagination.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#60 annabelle

annabelle
  • participating member
  • 1,874 posts
  • Location:Grand Lake o' the Cherokees, Oklahoma

Posted 28 April 2011 - 05:02 PM

I find Sandra Lee amusing, much moreso than Rachael Ray. That said, I nominate "Kathy's Kitchen". A hippy cookbook, circa 1970's, (vegetarian, natch) that contains a lot of banter from the author (Friend of Kathy's) giving her children a guilt complex about meat eating. It contains such recipes as "Neat Balls" which sound horrid.





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Cookbook