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Cookbooks That Were High Expectation Disappointments


Chris Amirault
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Judith Jones's The Pleasures of Cooking for One was a huge disappointment, especially after all the glowing reviews it's been getting.

Really? I got it for Christmas, and while I haven't really gone through it yet, the table of contents looked very interesting from my brief scan. What disappointed you about it?

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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For me, it was Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook. I cooked a bunch of recipes out of it, and they were "decent" at best. I found most of them to be bland and uninspired. For instance, I made some of his recipes listed under "the classics". The beef bourguignon was like some watery flavorless stew (I had to add a cup of veal stock I made using the french laundry recipe to even make it palatable), and the cassoulet was a gigantic disappointment...I was going to serve this with duck confit and various other things when I made dinner for someone for the first time. After tasting it a couple hours before serving, I drove to the store and grabbed some filet mignon, potatoes, and asparagus to serve instead. The only two recipes I took out of it that wowed me were the mushroom soup and fois gras with a prune reduction sauce, but the fois gras recipe is more of a method than a recipe.

Edited by therippa (log)
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Judith Jones's The Pleasures of Cooking for One was a huge disappointment, especially after all the glowing reviews it's been getting.

Really? I got it for Christmas, and while I haven't really gone through it yet, the table of contents looked very interesting from my brief scan. What disappointed you about it?

Partly, it was the tone -- way too precious for my taste, and I grew tired of all the name dropping (yes, Ms. Jones, we realize you edited Julia Child and knew James Beard and every other famous cookbook author -- but give it a rest). Partly it's the odd combination of explaining the obvious and not explaining things that really should be explained -- like how to cut the backbone out of a chicken.

I also tired of her one-dimensional approach to meal planning -- buy a big piece of meat, and then eat it three different ways during the week. After the first couple recipe groups, it was completely predictable. That's one way to approach cooking for one person, but it's certainly not the only way.

Mostly, though, the recipes were just unappealing. She's very old school, and recipes like minced chicken on toast, veal kidneys, blanquette de veau and LOTS of roasted meats with roasted vegetables just didn't do it for me.

To be fair, I've been cooking for one most of my life, so maybe I expected too much. For someone who's doing it for the first time (and who likes old-fashioned food), it might be helpful. But I think a much better choice is Joyce Goldstein's Solo Suppers.

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Just broke my cardinal purchase of books rule: never sight unseen, and bought Peter Greweling's new as-yet-unreleased Chocolates and Confections at Home and hope it doesn't end up on this list!! :wacko: Canadian prices & Canadian shipping and handling too!!! :hmmm:

It looks great to me...but since it's coming out too late to be of use in creating holiday treats, I decided to wait and see it before I order it.

I have recieved two Jamie Oliver cookbooks that I find completely useless. The food is attractive, but I just don't make fish pie or bangers all that often.

I actually really like his fish pie.

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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I have been disappointed in the King Arthur Whole Grain cookbook, as well as in Bakewise.

My Mom was (mistakenly) diagnosed with diabetes, and I figured this would be a good book to have. I looked at it in the store, and it seemed dull. I didn't get it, luckily. It's not that hard to work out ways of working with whole grains without buying this cumbersome book. Some things just don't work well with whole grains, either, so why bother?

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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  • 2 weeks later...

It really is wrong to see any of Keller's books listed in this thread. The recipes are long? The ingredients are to precious? The food too refined? Of course!! That's what he does and he provided those recipes for whoever wants to recreate them or simply wants to be a better cook. He never made The French Laundry or Bouchon specifically for The Home Cook. The only dissapointment should result if the recipes do not work or if the writing is bad (ref. Bakewise). Otherwise, this is simply an issue of misguided expectations.

I also love China Moon. The recipes are restaurant recipes also but they work and result in delicious food. The basics, like oils and pickles, alone are worth the price.

The major dissapointment for me was The Cuisine of La Marche by Fabbio Trabbochi. I promptly returned it after 3 failed recipes and got my money back. Looked to me like he penned the book down and never tested any of it. Add to that the very non-regional specific recipes and it's a dud.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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It really is wrong to see any of Keller's books listed in this thread.

If one is talking about expectations and disappointment, I don't see how anyone's opinions can be "wrong." Certainly the one recipe I tried out of Ad Hoc (the pave potatoes) was a disappointment. They weren't bad, but they weren't worth the amount of time and effort that I put into them. Sure, the recipe "worked," but that's not the only criterion I judge by.

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It really is wrong to see any of Keller's books listed in this thread.

If one is talking about expectations and disappointment, I don't see how anyone's opinions can be "wrong." Certainly the one recipe I tried out of Ad Hoc (the pave potatoes) was a disappointment. They weren't bad, but they weren't worth the amount of time and effort that I put into them. Sure, the recipe "worked," but that's not the only criterion I judge by.

Sure people's opinions can be wrong. I have the same argument with people about movies (or music) all the time. The whole "well, this is my opinion and I am entitled to it" argument does not make necessarily make anyone right and my retort goes along the lines of "sure you are, but in my opinion you are wrong for the following reasons...".

I have no problem with your example. Seems to be a matter of taste, but I would say it would be unfair to judge a whole book by it. I am referring the complaint about the exacting and technique-heavy recipes with long ingredients lists. That is simply the way he cooks at his restaurants and if you buy FL, Bouchon or Under Pressure expecting anything less, then that is not the author's fault. The best he could do is provide you with well-tested and reproduce-able recipes in a very well written and engaging book.

I said that Trabocchi book was a dud and I gave specific reasons. His recipes were crap and the content was boring.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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What you said is that it's wrong for any of Keller's books to be on this list. That is not a fact; it's an opinion. Since none of us have any way of getting inside anyone else's mind, we have no basis for claiming to know what can or can't disappoint other people. Maybe a person didn't know what to expect from a book by Keller, but so what? He or she can still be disappointed.

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Well, seems to me that you just did not get it, my initial comment I mean. It's figure of speech. It's like saying "I just cannot believe you said that, that's just wrong". I say the same thing to those who tell me they do not like French fries, chocolate or peanut butter. That's wrong. Hope that helps.

I do believe that to expect easy recipes with short lists from a book like the French Laundry is that person's problem and not a failure of the book.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I do believe that to expect easy recipes with short lists from a book like the French Laundry is that person's problem and not a failure of the book.

I've made the pave from Ad Hoc, too. Having been through Keller's stuff, I was not in the least surprised that it was an exacting, time-consuming recipe. Sometimes that exactly what I want. But I also expect the results to be worth the effort. Usually, with a Keller recipe, it is. Those potatoes, though, were not.

That doesn't mean I'm disappointed in the book as a whole; I'm barely into it. But it's not an auspicious start.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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