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Chris Hennes

Worst. Cookbook. Ever.

86 posts in this topic

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 (log)

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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.

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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 (log)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cool. What makes [the New Vegetarian Epicure] better?

I haven't actually read the original, but in the notes to the new cookbook, she mentions that the recipes were heavy, with cheese and dairy taking a central role. The recipes in the new cookbook are definitely vegetable-centered. They're not all hits, but there are a few recipes (including a really terrific broccoli soup) that I make regularly.

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I never owned the first Vegetarian Epicure, but I still have the original Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, and I think you would be pleasantly surprised by it. The recipes are quite international and are respectable precursors to a lot of foods that came into style a little later, from baba ghanoush to bread salad. Some of the recipes from the book that I still like and use:

Cranberry Bread

Orange Date Bread

mushroom and barley stuffed cabbage rolls

Apple pudding (really a clafoutis of sorts)

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I can tell you, from extensive personal experience, that the New Joys of Jell-o (1974), is an abomination. A crime against humanity.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I ordered sight-unseen from amazon a used copy of 'Cordials from Your Kitchen: Easy, Elegant Liqueurs You Can Make and Give' -- it arrived and I discovered that in about 1/2 the recipes the major flavoring ingredient is a spoonful of "flavoring extract". Are you kidding me? I want my 3 dollars back! Anyone have similar disappointments putting their knickers in a twist?

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I was sort of disappointed with the Garde Manger text from CIA. I love the subject, but soon realized the much of the content was already in The Professional Chef. Anyways, now I'm rather selective with any of the CIA texts, that book cost more then it was worth for repeated recipes, instructions, and photos.

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A First Cookbook for Children (Dover Pictorial Archives)

I thought it would have recipes to do with my kids - but they were normal 'adult' type recipes.

The production quality was like what a church group would put together as a fund-raiser.

The 'Chilrdens' element where some bad pictures that a child could colour in - they pictures seem to have all been drawn int he 19th century. (from the style)

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A First Cookbook for Children (Dover Pictorial Archives)

I thought it would have recipes to do with my kids - but they were normal 'adult' type recipes.

The production quality was like what a church group would put together as a fund-raiser.

The 'Chilrdens' element where some bad pictures that a child could colour in - they pictures seem to have all been drawn int he 19th century. (from the style)

That looks quite a bit like the first cookbook I started from, when I was 8 (oh, and actually, those drawings are almost certainly vintage 1970s work): the same sort of unchallenging entry-level stuff, unlikely to scare kids off cooking (more likely to bore them a bit, pushing them to seek out a proper cookbook).

I once picked up a copy of a work called Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, while I was waiting for my sister at a book shop, and needed to kill something between 5 and 45 minutes. The cover was perfectly pleasant. However, the contents of the book made me want to destroy all copies of it. I wish I could remember what the problem was (I seem to have firmly blotted out all the details), but I recall my search for anything redeeming in the book left me with the distinct impression that it is a cruel joke.


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

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I offer you Lizzie's Amish Cookbook, a spinoff from an Amish romance novel series. Aside from sme decent bread recipes, it offers excerpts from the novels and recipes filled with processed ingredients. http://www.amazon.com/Lizzies-Amish-Cookbook-Generations-ebook/dp/B008OPDCCG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1374240844&sr=8-3&keywords=Amish+romance+cookbook

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I have a bit of a collection of utterly useless cookbooks published in Chinese. These are on both Chinese and Western cuisines.

The Chinese cuisine books tend to go along the lines of

Ingredients: Chicken (500g); Onion (enough), Garlic (Enough) Soy Sauce(Enough)...

Method: Cook until ready.

The Western books are clearly written by people who have only ever seen pictures of the dishes in question and imagined/fantasised how they might have been prepared. And they suggest more of the "enough".

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Er, what about that Ferran Adria family meal book? Here, open a packet of potato crisps/tub of icecream/etc.

Actually, I like that book. (Ferran Adria signed my copy on his tour, and he put far more into our brief exchange than any politician I've met.)

In general, paying someone known best as an author to write yet another book is like paying someone for sex. And having a hack in the middle interpret an actual cook for what their editor imagines to be my circumstances? No thanks. I'd much rather make the interpretation myself.

For example, there are also some great ideas for the home cook in Thomas Keller's books, but they are not to be taken literally unless one has a highly trained staff of twenty.


Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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I also really like the Adria Family Meals book. If you're familiar with El Bulli's cuisine, they've never been afraid to take advantage of ready-made food products. When you have the workload of an El Bulli, you draw the line differently in terms of what you're willing to do from scratch vs. what to purchase ready-made. It's also an additional avenue for their creativity. It's a questioning of an assumption...Of course at home you can draw your own lines of what is acceptable.

Even more so than the recipes themselves though, that book is the first I've seen that attempts to adapt haute-cuisine restaurant systems of produce management/staff meal to the home context. And in that aspect, I think it's both underestimated and likely under-utilized....but completely useful at home.

PS, the potato-chip tortilla is delicious.

My "avoid" cookbook is Aliza Green's "Starting with ingredients" Maybe it's just me, but every time I try to look up something...I can't find it. That, plus it's huge and unwieldy means that I had to get rid of it. This is in stark contrast to all of her field guide books...all of which have been the exact opposite of "Starting with ingredients". Compact, useful, comprehensive.

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Mayonnaise, Hollandaise, Bernaise 'edited by' Justine Harding et al.

I bought this online, unseen, while researching whether or not to write my own book on the topic. This book contains a compilation of sauce recipes from previously published sources owned by the publisher. There is no author given for any recipe, they just credit the editors of the source cookbooks. The 200+ recipes given include gravies, pestos, marinara sauces and fruit coulis. Only 17 of the recipes are for a mayonnaise, hollandaise or bernaise and those recipes are just the bare-bones classics taken/stolen from Escoffier, Mrs. Beeton, and other classic sources. If you own any decent comprehensive cookbook like Joy, Fannie Farmer, Escoffier, Julia's Mastering the Art, etc. you already have these recipes and far, far more.

The binding is hardback, and that's the only nice thing I can say about this book. Amazon.com has copies for $2.45 and I am warning you not to waste your money on it, you will regret it.

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That looks quite a bit like the first cookbook I started from, when I was 8

Ahhh... My first cookbook was an excellent Sesame Street Cookbook that I have not been able to find for my girls. It had simple to medium recipes presented by the puppets as their favourites. I don't really remember much of what was in it, but I liked to look at it, and do remember the chocolate chip cookies from the Cookie Monster. For some reason I also remember a pea soup - must have been Oscar...

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