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Digesting a New Cookbook


joeljkp
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What do you guys do when you buy a new book? Read through for ideas? Make one or two recipes? Cook your way through it (in any meaning of the phrase)?

Just to add to the discussion, I have... ten, including a gem from the feminist '70s called "The Political Palate".

Edited by joeljkp (log)
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So, how do you attack or digest a new cookbook?

I know for me, I'm likely to take it to bed or a lawn chair and read it like a novel. As I do so, I look for hallmarks and all sorts of details which can make or break a cookbook.

So, when you crack open the box and see the new book, or get home with the new book, or bring a new tome from the library, just what do you first do?

Edited by heidih
delete after merge (log)
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I usually leaf through it when I first get home, then later read it like a novel. Usually though, I'll have a little stack of stick-notes while i'm reading it, and I bookmark anything I want to try.

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I gulp it, checking out the layout, the pictures, the chapters, the organization. Then I read it carefully front to back, and make notes on a 3X5 card/bookmark giving me titles and page numbers of recipes I've gotta try.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I pretty much do it like Maggie does, but not always front to back. Sometimes back to front, or middle to front to back. Or the desserts first and then the appetizers before the meat and poultry chapters. You get the picture. In addition to 3X5 cards, on some books I also use small sticky notes like Shamanjoe does to flag the pages.

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When I first get it, I'll just flip through and look at the pictures and any recipes that catch my eye. Later, I'll curl up on the couch with it and page through, front to back, and bookmark everything I want to try. I don't read it like a novel, but skim through and see what looks interesting.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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I put it on my reading table and page through it, read the introduction(s) and poke around. I never read one all the way through, though there are many I page through all the way. Then they join the growing family of "I'll have to eventually cook something from this book" books on my shelf.

From then on I will randomly pull one or the other down while watching some nonsense on TV and occasionally I cook a recipe from them. Mostly they're used for inspiration. I might read something in an Italian book that strikes me as something I could do in an Asian way (since I might have the ingredients for that on hand right now) and go from there.

I used to put sticky flags into them too, until it looked like some colorful bird molted (or got shotgunned) on my shelf. Now I just have a list where I write down the recipe name, book, and page of things I want to make. Like a great looking saffron rabbit recipe from the Lobel's book or a lemon mustard roast chicken from Wood Fired Cooking that will go into my Big Green Egg probably this weekend.

I do pull one or the other (or more) down just about every day, some days might see an art or music book instead. If I look at the current pile on my reading desk:

A16, Nancy Silverton's Sandwich book, Big Fat Duck (small edition), Momofuku, Molecular Gastronomy, Saveur cooks authentic French, The Cook's book, Wood Fired Cooking, Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking, How to read a French Fry. And then there's the Zombie Survival Guide, two books on figure drawing, Adobe Lightroom, Digital Food Photography, 3 on watercolor painting and one about landscape painting.

Hmmm, I guess I need to clean up that table a bit.....

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Here in Seattle it is a really gray day as is common this time of year. I have a lot of cook books and find that I do read them. I do avoid the celebrity cookbooks though. On my nightstand is" Cooking by hand" that I get a few pages a day done. As somebody on eGullet gets my interest up on something or another, I dig out one or more books that I hope to satisfy that lack of knowledge.

I love books. It takes little to make me realize that I should know something I don't and away I go, often that is spelled - more books.

I went thru the reefer a bit ago and now I have to find a stew that begs the pork sirloin tips I have so that the evening isn't so gray as the day.

I just ordered Page & Dornberg's "The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity", wonder when I will have time to read all of it.

Oh wow, I just saw a fleeting bit of Blue sky!

Robert

Seattle

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I love books. It takes little to make me realize that I should know something I don't and away I go, often that is spelled - more books.

Oh me too. The only thing stopping me from buying all the books I want is lack of space... oh, and lack of funds too I guess. Tho when it comes to books, I can always find a way to afford them. I occasionally need to weed out the older books that I don't refer to often anymore to make room for the new. But it's so hard to part with them.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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I'm a grazer. I'll buy a book, often on impulse (yesterday it was Thomas Keller's 'Ad Hoc At Home', which I saw at Costco for a good price, and had seen people chatting about here), then I'll flip through it looking to be enticed. Photographs are good - it can be a good hour's entertainment just paging through an attractive book and thinking about cooking the recipes. Like some of the others, I'll put a sticky note or two in places I want to come back to later.

I may not cook from the book right away (I have a couple of books, like 'Hot Sour Salty Sweet' that I bought for looks alone and have yet to cook a single recipe from), but usually I'll try to give some of the recipes a shot in the weeks after buying them. Often it's ones that sound familiar or look like good bets to be something I'd like. If the ones I do are successful, it will spur me to try more adventurous recipes from the book and take some chances.

I find that it's the books I buy for a specific purpose that I spend the most time with, rather than the impulse buys. When I decided I wanted to get serious about home baking I ordered Peter Reinhart's 'Bread Baker's Apprentice' and then methodically worked my way through a set of different recipes, doing them several times each until I felt I had a good grasp of them. Then I got his 'Whole Grain Breads Book' and did the same, and again with 'American Pie'.

What I found handy was to set up a secondary bookshelf right in my kitchen, where I see it every day. I have 10 books there - all ones I want to use more (mostly new) and it's easy to pick one up and page through it, looking for ideas. The main bookshelf is in the next room, and has about 100 titles, books and magazines. It's a bit more effort to cook from those books, unless I'm going back to old favorites. My cookbooker website project will hopefully spur me to get more out of those ones though as I start to get access to individual recipe reviews.

www.cookbooker.com - Rate and review your cookbook recipes.

Cookbooker Challenge: July/Aug 2010 - collaboratively baking & reviewing Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.

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I also lke to buy books for a purpose, some for parties, some for a quiet evening. I'll generally glance at every recipe at first, then the book will be lying around the house as I take a more in depth look before it finds it's way to my bookshelf. A short time later I'll pull it out sometimes to read it, and sometimes to make something. I have no compunction to risk untried recipes usually with positive results.

Edited by Jacquester (log)

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”

W.C. Fields

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Those of you who read ALL of the cookbook, do you actually read through the ingredients and the directions?

I only read the title and the "blurb", whatever anecdotes or comments the author has chosen to share, usually at the beginning of the recipe. Then I glance over the ingredients. Only if I'm drawn to something do I actually read the directions. I'm much more inclined to read on if this is a food I especially like, and if it seems like a recipe or method I've never seen before.

Certain words in the recipe title can make me immediately flee to the next page (hot/spicy, peanuts, Indian, Bobby Flay's), or immediately start reading (sweet/sour, orange, Christmas, Aunt So-and-So's Custard Johnny Cake). Excessive wordiness turns me off, also.

Oh, and if there is no "blurb"? I don't buy the book.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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I love reading cookbooks and am incredibly lucky because once a month (at least) my best friend shows up with armloads of books. She haunts the charity stores and book closeout sales and often finds very recently released but slightly damaged copies. Not all of them are thrilling but enough of them capture my imagination that I look forward to them any time. If there is book in her arms that I have been hankering after I will often hoard it – refusing to even open the covers for a period of time – I test my will power! Eventually I succumb of course but the anticipation is a huge part of the whole ritual. Some of the others get nothing more than a glimpse and go right into the recycle pile but some that I think at first are not worth reading manage to wriggle their way onto my bookshelves. Books that I would not even glance at in a bookstore prove to be very engaging (Jamison and Jamison “A Real American Breakfast”; Alfred Portale “Simple Pleasures”). Some I read cover to cover including reading all the way through the ingredient list and the cooking instructions, some I might bookmark with sticky notes for particular recipes or techniques, some will find me in the kitchen almost immediately trying something out. Few things can elevate my mood like an armload of cookbooks can!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Those of you who read ALL of the cookbook, do you actually read through the ingredients and the directions?

I absolutely read the ingredients and the directions.

I'm looking to see if the ingredients are things that I can actually get, here in the sticks where I live. And if there are too many ingredients that I can't get or in some cases have never heard of, the book is consigned to the "kitchen porn" pile: you can look but you can't touch. And as far as the directions go, I'm looking to see whether the instructions make sense, for a home cook in a home kitchen. In the case of desserts, I'm looking for things that are doomed to fail, either because the directions aren't specific enough or because the ratios of ingredients just look off for what you're being instructed to do or make.

What can I say, other than I'm a geek.

MelissaH :biggrin:

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I'm very much a curled-up-on-the-sofa cookbook reader... but it usually takes me weeks after I've got the book to actually open it. My loungeroom is littered with piles of books, some not-yet-read, some often read, most with bits of paper (strips of receipts!) or bookmarks poking out where I've noticed a recipe. Chaos.

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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When I get a new cookbook I have it on the coffee table for about a month, I'll spend a good few hours carefully looking over every page, I read all the ingredients to see what flavors they have paired or complimented each other with and read through most methods of the recipes that intrigue me. I often spot ingredients used with one another that I can use to adapt my own recipes or personal favorites from other books. Once the book has gone to the shelf it is brought out when I go on a splurge at the shop and buy whatever looks good, then when i get home I'll scour all my books for aubergine or artichoke recipes.

@lostinthelarder

Lost in the Larder - the life and times of an inquisitive appetite

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I just bought a couple books from Amazon, "It must have been something I ate" and "The man who ate everything."

Not sure what I'm expecting from them exactly, but I'm hoping there's at least a few recipes in there (or enough process descritpion that I can get started).

That being said, I'm a book junky in general, and have to keep building bookshelves to accommodate my purchases. More recently I've been eyeing more and more cookbooks. How I read it depends on the type of cookbook. I recently bought one on Indian cooking, and it has a fabulous section on all of the different spices and herbs used. Each spice/herb has a whole page, and at the end of each section are recipes. That one I like to just sit and read. Others, like my new cocktail book (i know it's not technically a "cookbook" but it is full of recipes :wink: ) I just glance at the pictures and maybe try one or two things rather than sitting down and reading it all at once.

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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