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Worst. Cookbook. Ever.


Chris Hennes
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What is the worst cookbook you have ever seen? Bonus points for example recipes...

My nomination is the Blendtec Lifestyles Recipe Book: More than 300 delicious recipes made with one incredible machine (it came with the blender). A few example recipes...

Hazelnut Coffee Ice Cream

1 cup hazelnut coffee creamer

1/3 cup chocolate syrup

3 cups ice cubes

Please tell me this one is a joke. "Ice Cream" made with flavored non-dairy creamer?

Astronaut Surprise

1 cup Frech vanilla nondairy creamer

2 Tbsp orange drink mix

1 Tbsp instant vanilla pudding

2 cups ice cubes

This is also an "ice cream" but apparently they didn't think Tang™ would appreciate the product placement.

Pancakes

[standard pancake ingredients]

Directions: Place ingredients in jar in order listed and secure the lid. Press the Batters button. [...]

Have you ever read a normal pancakes recipe? You know, the ones that say "mix until just combined. Do not overmix!"? Then, there is this one. "Put it all in a blender an press 'destroy'."

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I have to admit that I haven't seen this one in person, but I'm going to nominate The Great Alaskan Bachelor's Cookbook: OK for Girls to Read Too! From the back cover: "JUNK FOOD COOKING AT IT'S (sic) FINEST. Just throw a bunch of food together and cook it."

You really have to follow the link and look inside. The first recipe involves two pork chops, four potatoes, American cheese slices, and three cups of milk, which is all layered and then baked for an hour an a half.

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I was at the grocery store just yesterday loitering at the cookbooks. There was a cookbook called Party Food that was authorless. I was pointing out to my friend, Georgia, that all the food was beige and not very party like when she noticed a little beige party sandwich for children. It was a whole wheat sardine sandwich. I just can't imagine getting a whole party's worth of children together who would enjoy that and not mutiny. It was a great party until missy down the road called child protective services.

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The great French Chef Paul Bocuse published a cookbook quite a number of years ago that even Julia Child said was horrible. A couple of recipes that I remember were Ham Cooked in Hay and a casserole of Ortolans, which are French songbirds. That would be like a recipe for a casserole of Robins here. I still have the book. :smile:

Edited by mbhank (log)

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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This is a bit off topic, but with a kismet spin. As I was reading this thread my wife gave me a found copy of the New York Times Book Review section. I paged through it and was three pages from the end when I noticed the title "Your Tired, Your Poor and Their Food". The review begins "One of the sights that greeted immigrants in New York, right after the Statue of Liberty, was a prune sandwich."

I haven't read the rest of the article, or indeed the book, but I wonder if more prune sandwiches might go a long way to solve some of our immigration issues. ;)

Edited by IndyRob (log)
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I have a microwave cookbook packed away somewhere that included gems such as roast beef and (I think) roast turkey, in the microwave.

IndyRob... whatever, man. I'll take the poor huddled masses and their delicious cuisine over prune sandwiches (or "American cheese") anyday.

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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IndyRob... whatever, man. I'll take the poor huddled masses and their delicious cuisine over prune sandwiches (or "American cheese") anyday.

I wasn't trying to make a statement. I was just amused by the thought of, say, Italian immigrants being cheerfully offered prune sandwiches and having second thoughts. Mark Twain was out front in extolling the benefits to culture and cuisine.

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The great French Chef Paul Bocuse published a cookbook quite a number of years ago that even Julia Child said was horrible. A couple of recipes that I remember were Ham Cooked in Hay and a casserole of Ortolans, which are French songbirds. That would be like a recipe for a casserole of Robins here. I still have the book. :smile:

But Ham in Hay is a dish with a venerable tradition - and in the present it even finds a place in Fergus Henderson's esteemed Nose to Tail Cooking. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3315439/Recipes-from-Nose-to-tail-eating.html

Comments from our panel: A leg of gammon is such an enormous thing ... so you might consider only buying half a leg. You will need surprisingly little hay which, as pet shops are far more numerous than good butchers, is easily available. Six good handfuls is plenty.

As the recipe says, the hay is not edible, but neither is the stock, which becomes revoltingly salty by the end of the cooking.

The ham, though, is excellent, surprisingly strongly flavoured by the hay so it has an outdoorsy, countryside feel to it. It is beautifully soft and tender.

The poor little Ortolan has had the misfortune to be considered a gastronomic delight in France - and has therefore been hunted to the verge of extinction.

Laws were introduced to protect it in 1999, but were barely enforced until 2007 (at least in part following the revelations about Mitterand's infamous 'last supper').

Before those dates it was EXACTLY the sort of thing that a 'high end' restaurateur like Bocuse would feel obligated to offer. More here - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1562561/Frances-songbird-delicacy-is-outlawed.html

French gourmands are to be denied what one restaurant critic describes as the "barbaric pleasure" of feasting on tiny songbirds after their government announced that it intended finally to enforce laws that have been on the statute books for eight years. ...

The prized birds can fetch up to €150 (£102) {call it about $150 US} each if sold illegally to restaurants. Diners savour the ritual almost as much as the flavour.

While I think that recipes for Ortolan make an interesting historical document, just as with foie gras recipes, I don't think they should nowadays be seen as an invitation to prepare the dishes.

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.

For strong negative shelf-appeal there's The SPAM Cookbook (closely followed by The Roadkill Cookbook ...) I do have an old (well, surprising modern considering - 1930's) Scottish cookery-school book with a recipe for Sheep's Head Broth (I particularly recall the important instruction to brush the teeth clean BEFORE putting the head in the pot).

For recipes that simply don't work, I'd nominate the curing section of HFW's Meat.

While I do greatly enjoy Nigel Slater's ideas for food, I really am put off by Nigel Slater writing about Nigel Slater, or even worse, writing about being Nigel Slater. Kitchen Diaries deserves mention in this context.

On the Cholesterol count, what can beat the original Galloping Gourmet?

For smugness, unexciting food and excessive name-dropping, I propose Ismail Merchant's Indian Cuisine.

I reckon Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry scores in many areas, but its ability to state simplistic things wrongly is matched only by its (unstated) subversive basic concept of 'faux artisan'. As the politician said "Once you can fake sincerity, you are getting somewhere". I really didn't like that book.

But there's maybe only one book that I actually viscerally loathe ...

As the Amazon UK product description accurately states "How to Cheat is for people who don't want to cook, who think they can't cook, or simply don't have the time to cook."

And its a very, very, very big seller.

Totally coincidentally, it was also yesterday that blogger and occasional eGulleteer Tim Hayward invited nominations at the Guardian for the worst food books.

He got some interesting responses ... (160 so far) http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/aug/20/worst-food-books

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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But there's maybe only one book that I actually viscerally loathe ...

As the Amazon UK product description accurately states "How to Cheat is for people who don't want to cook, who think they can't cook, or simply don't have the time to cook."

And its a very, very, very big seller.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/aug/20/worst-food-books

Its a Brit Sandra Lee!!!!

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I have eaten far more bad food prepared with one book cracked open on the counter than all others combined. Shockingly, those dishes were usually served as if they were food, glorious food, morally and culinarily superior to the gruel I usually forced down my gullet.

Thus, for the gastrointestinal misery and self-deluded superiority I endured at cooks who used it as a blunt instrument for decades, I nominate Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook as the Worst. Cookbook. Ever.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Ha Ha Chris, I may have suffered too.... but I would nominate the 70's vegetarian classic Diet for a Small Planet. I stopped eating meat in about 1978, and i didn't then, or now see why vegetarian had to mean no salt, and a lot of cheese. bleagh. I think it was that suffering to be moral thing. I don't do that.

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I should say in fairness, i am 100% behind the political beliefs of Frances Moore Lappe and Mollie Katzen, its just i don't see why I should eat boring food because of it. Luckily after leaving home at 16 or 17 I headed to India, and ended up in Bengal, where i found veg food that was the exact opposite of boring salt free or bland.

I guess i feel guilty dising their books. But they were naaasty. And as Chris said the food was always offered with an air of violent Moral superiority , and i will shut up now.

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Funny you should mention Diet for a Small Planet. I often have patients who are new onset vegetarians - so in the process of counselling I'll suggest they get this book for the theory - but I always tell them never to cook anything out of it!

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I nominate "A man, a can, and a plan".

Also agree on Moosewood, and on how good Indian vegetarian food can be. There was an Indian restaurant (about 20 years ago) in the Radnor, PA area in a downmarket strip mall - my first step inside had me totally enchanted with the aromas.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I have eaten far more bad food prepared with one book cracked open on the counter than all others combined. Shockingly, those dishes were usually served as if they were food, glorious food, morally and culinarily superior to the gruel I usually forced down my gullet.

Thus, for the gastrointestinal misery and self-deluded superiority I endured at cooks who used it as a blunt instrument for decades, I nominate Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook as the Worst. Cookbook. Ever.

Agreed! Terrible recipes.... usually found in the kitchens of 60ish college profs.

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When I was in college in the 1980s, those living off campus either cooked from the execrable Katzen books or the Rosso/Lukins Silver Palate books. Whatever their own problems, Rosso and Lukins at least believed that food should taste good and be well-prepared.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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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.

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I have eaten far more bad food prepared with one book cracked open on the counter than all others combined. Shockingly, those dishes were usually served as if they were food, glorious food, morally and culinarily superior to the gruel I usually forced down my gullet.

Thus, for the gastrointestinal misery and self-deluded superiority I endured at cooks who used it as a blunt instrument for decades, I nominate Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook as the Worst. Cookbook. Ever.

Guess I'm off to the eGullet hall of shame because when I read this I had 2 different editions of the Moosewood open as I tried to morph between the two. :shock: Guess I won't invite you over for black bean soup.

Yeah some of the recipes suck but that's the same for most cookbooks. ... ok maybe I should say some of the recipes don't suck.

My vote would be for almost any blender cookbook.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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When I was in college in the 1980s, those living off campus either cooked from the execrable Katzen books or the Rosso/Lukins Silver Palate books. Whatever their own problems, Rosso and Lukins at least believed that food should taste good and be well-prepared.

Yup, my world too. All my friends cooked out of Moosewood and Enchanted Broccoli Forest (and nothing else), while all our more sophisticated parents cooked out of Silver Palate.

I've never cooked recipes from any of these books, but I remember thinking my friends' results beat dorm food, at least by a little.

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Notes from the underbelly

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I think anything with a corporate brand in the title could qualify.

How about Crunchy Topped Mini-Biscuit Wedges...?

1 (10oz.) can Hungry Jack Refrigerated Flaky Biscuits

1 TB margarine or butter, melted

3/4 cup finely crushed corn chips

Cut into quarters, drizzle, toss, add crumbs, toss. Bake.

Or, Mini-Biscuit Wedges...?

No corn chips. Replace with grated parm and paprika (or garlic powder). Kinda' like Doritos in biscuit form, I guess.

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