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"The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià"


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. . . .

I don't use my books "for visual inspiration alone." I read through them, and find all sorts of inspiration lurking in their pages - brand new (to me) ideas, thoughts, suggestions, methods, ingredients; even attitudes and ways of looking at life in the kitchen. And I find new twists on old ideas as well, often things I've done for decades. And that doesn't even begin to take into account the fact that "best practice" is subjective, an entirely different issue.

I said it was probably just me, but I'm sure I've got at least 1000 cookbooks, and likely more. Some are old friends I've had since I got married back in 1969. Some are even older friends, having belonged to my mother or grandmother. And I've lived, traveled and eaten around the world, literally. As I approach 70, it would be tempting to believe that I've done, seen, cooked, eaten it all, from whole monkey and iguana roasted on an open fire in a Cuna Indian village in the San Blas Islands when we lived in Panama, to creamed rooster testicles at a wedding dinner when I lived in Hong Kong, to jellied moose nose when we lived in Alaska.

But still, every single time I sit down with one of my cookbooks, I find something in it of enough value to definitely make it "worth the paper it's printed on," at least to me.

There's nothing wrong with being discriminating. Certainly not everyone wants or needs or could use or find value in 1000 cookbooks. But making blanket, sweeping, condescending statements like "95% of the cookbooks in the market aren't worth the paper they are printed on," seems to me to be pretty-much always unwise, saying more about the speaker than the spoken about.

And, by the way, it just so happens that I also own Adria's "Family Meal" (both the US and UK versions) and have cooked from it. I find it to be remarkably simple and unpretentious.

Amusingly enough, one of his desserts is "Almond soup with ice cream."

He gives quite detailed instructions as to how to prepare the almond soup, but pretty clearly seems quite happy with the notion of going to your freezer and opening up a tub of previously-purchased ice cream.

Fair enough, and as you point out, it's a very personal thing. I don't have a dozen cookbooks, and the ones I have are either very old, or incredibly reliable. Also, I travel/move often, and my books are some of the few things with which I'm unwilling to part, so my selection process is necessarily stringent.

I'm fine with prepared things (I don't think I've ever even made my own ice cream), but I find that knowing something about how to make them makes it far easier to make chices I'm happy with.

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

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I'm fine with prepared things (I don't think I've ever even made my own ice cream), but I find that knowing something about how to make them makes it far easier to make chices I'm happy with.

And, ironically enough, we actually make homemade ice cream and sorbets (with my limoncello, among other things) all the time.

:laugh:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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My question now is, if you were say, going to stay with a friend who happened to have no cookbooks or ability to cook (but did have an appreciation of good food), so you were going to bring a cookbook of your own--only one--and do any cooking, would The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià be one you'd consider bringing?

I realize the situation I've described is absurdly contrived (if no weirder than some I've found myself in), which is the reason I'm saying 'one you'd consider', not 'the only/first one I'd choose' :wink:

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

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My question now is, if you were say, going to stay with a friend who happened to have no cookbooks or ability to cook (but did have an appreciation of good food), so you were going to bring a cookbook of your own--only one--and do any cooking, would The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià be one you'd consider bringing?

I realize the situation I've described is absurdly contrived (if no weirder than some I've found myself in), which is the reason I'm saying 'one you'd consider', not 'the only/first one I'd choose' :wink:

Interesting. I'll look forward to what others have to say but, speaking just for myself, I think it's a great place to start. I haven't had it for terribly long, but my first impression is that it is an excellent choice.

Other than the fact it's rather large, heavy and unwieldy and not something I'd like to haul through an airport in my carry-on bag, there are a great many things about the book that lend itself to just such a scenario.

My daughter, who has reached her early 30's not knowing how to cook a thing (too busy working on her education and career, interspersed with having my grandbabies, and being blessed with a husband that likes to cook and is wonderful at it), has just decided she wants to learn. She's taking a hiatus from her job and we're beginning our kitchen journey. I bought her a copy of "Family Meals" because it's so precise, with excellent step-by-step instructions, accompanied by photos illustrating each step. The recipes seem simple and well-thought-out, even including time charts and a shopping list for each dish. Ingredient measurements are given to serve 2, or 6, or 20 or 75. Very handy. I think it would be hard to go wrong, if you're following along exactly as instructed. The book also features menus, something that can be a little difficult to get the hang of when one is just beginning to cook and entertain.

It has a fairly limited number of recipes, so it's certainly not an encyclopedic, comprehensive reference source, like Joy of Cooking was for my generation, but that can be a plus for a beginning cook that feels a little overwhelmed with a large tome.

We're only at the beginning of this journey so this is just a first impression but, thus far, I think it's a wise choice.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I bought this book at the same time as the new Heston book. What a contrast - where Heston has modified his recipes for home use by omitting some modernist ingredients and leaving out specialist equipment, Ferran Adria's book uses shortcuts. Heston's book is doable by any home cook who has the commitment to attempt his multiple step recipes, but you can tell that each recipe has been carefully formulated with a keen eye for detail.

Now for Ferran Adria's book. I was gobsmacked to see that his potato straw recipe was ... open a pack of potato straws! Likewise, his basil and tomato salad recipe was a complete joke. Here it is: peel and slice tomatoes, then add EVOO, salt, vinegar, and basil. Or take his Mandarins and Cointreau recipe - juice mandarins, add Cointreau, drizzle over mandarin segments, add vanilla ice-cream (you guessed it ... the recipe was: open a tub of vanilla ice-cream), and serve. His roast chicken recipe does not tell you what temperature to cook the chicken to, nor does it even tell you to brine the chicken. Heston's recipe is the complete opposite - Heston will have you fussing over your chicken for 24 hours before finishing it with the precision of a scientist.

After reading this book I can't help but think he is taking the piss out of us. What new insights does this book have to offer? None! Avoid, save your money.

I second your thoughts... not the worst book I've bought in the last year but maybe the most disappointing. I've tried half a dozen recipes from the book and nothing so far that I'd consider making again. Heston's book just arrived and it looks awesome

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  • 2 weeks later...

And do you know (or does anyone) whether the US and UK editions of Heston at Home differ from each other?

The US edition of The Family Meal is really a disaster. Not only did they lose all the metric, the conversions are more than occasionally way, way off -- viz., the beef stock mentioned above, and the stock for the mackerel soup which is listed as 3/4 cup instead of 400ml!!!

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On the other hand, it turns out I was wrong that they had substantially changed the text between the US and UK versions. The things I noticed that were different when I first saw excerpts from the UK version (in the video) turned out not to be in the published UK version. The video must have been using an earlier mock-up.

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My question now is, if you were say, going to stay with a friend who happened to have no cookbooks or ability to cook (but did have an appreciation of good food), so you were going to bring a cookbook of your own--only one--and do any cooking, would The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià be one you'd consider bringing?

I realize the situation I've described is absurdly contrived (if no weirder than some I've found myself in), which is the reason I'm saying 'one you'd consider', not 'the only/first one I'd choose' :wink:

I did something not dissimilar to this on Friday. We having a few beers at the grad student pub early friday evening, then six of us decided we wanted to cook dinner (it was about 7pm). We walked to my place, picked a menu out of the book (vichyssoise, lamb, and chocolate truffles), split up for groceries, and started cooking at approximately 8:30pm. After 1.5 hours of unhurried cooking we had a three course meal (which ended up feeding 9 instead of 6), for between $5-6 dollars a head.

Everyone loved the food, the instructions were clear, and we were already thinking about next week's dinner. I may have to start carrying it in my backpack.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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....

I did something not dissimilar to this on Friday. We having a few beers at the grad student pub early friday evening, then six of us decided we wanted to cook dinner (it was about 7pm). We walked to my place, picked a menu out of the book (vichyssoise, lamb, and chocolate truffles), split up for groceries, and started cooking at approximately 8:30pm. After 1.5 hours of unhurried cooking we had a three course meal (which ended up feeding 9 instead of 6), for between $5-6 dollars a head.

Everyone loved the food, the instructions were clear, and we were already thinking about next week's dinner. I may have to start carrying it in my backpack.

What a great idea. Wish I had a bunch of willing friends to do the same. Thanks for sharing.

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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I have to say that with the glorious insouciance of someone who's read neither of these two books, but who has at least eaten at the Fat Duck and has tried some of the recipes in Heston's "Family Food", I find the juxtaposition "Home cooking" with either of these two chefs to be odd. They're all doing it and it's no less absurd when it's Gordon Ramsay or Michel Roux Jr, trying to persuade you that really, you too can cook like them on a day to day basis. I cam live with a top chef writing an aspirational book and selling it to people who want to push the boat out for some special occasion.

Actually, I can't blame them. We all want to make money, and so I can see why a chef wants to cash in on his cachet. And they are going to sell more books and get richer by trying to persuade the great unwashed that they too can cook like "that funny guy in Barcelona" or "that mad englishman with glasses" if only they buy their cookbooks, rather than to try to appeal to serious foodies.

All the best

Ian (yes in France)

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....

I did something not dissimilar to this on Friday. We having a few beers at the grad student pub early friday evening, then six of us decided we wanted to cook dinner (it was about 7pm). We walked to my place, picked a menu out of the book (vichyssoise, lamb, and chocolate truffles), split up for groceries, and started cooking at approximately 8:30pm. After 1.5 hours of unhurried cooking we had a three course meal (which ended up feeding 9 instead of 6), for between $5-6 dollars a head.

Everyone loved the food, the instructions were clear, and we were already thinking about next week's dinner. I may have to start carrying it in my backpack.

What a great idea. Wish I had a bunch of willing friends to do the same. Thanks for sharing.

As I said above, my daughter and I are doing essentially the same thing. I can easily see how this book wouldn't appeal to everyone. But it's working very well for us and our needs.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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ianinfrance, I think you don't have to be trying to create restaurant food to learn from someone who has thought deeply about the subject and is explaining techniques. If you are in France, take a look at Guy Savoy's home cooking book, Vos Petits Plat Par Un Grand, as an example:

http://www.amazon.fr/Vos-petits-plats-par-grand/dp/2830707044/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1322598569&sr=8-8

Ludicrously simple home cooking, many might say (as with Adria's book), but done with such taste and thoughtful observation that it is worth reading and learning from. And fascinating to hear a great chef, in these sous vides days, talk about the benefits of the smell of a chicken roasting on a Sunday afternoon, the kind of thing Blumenthal talks about in his new book, too.

Guy Savoy's book is also available in an English translation as, Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook, with an introduction by Patricia Wells. I can't vouch for the translation or any conversion of units.

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  • 4 months later...

The US edition of The Family Meal is really a disaster. Not only did they lose all the metric, the conversions are more than occasionally way, way off -- viz., the beef stock mentioned above, and the stock for the mackerel soup which is listed as 3/4 cup instead of 400ml!!!

I emailed the publisher of the US edition a few months back asking them if they were going to post a PDF errata of all the measurement conversion errors, but they never responded. :sad: If the UK version actually has weight measures, and isn't off by several orders of magnitude in about 1/3rd of the recipes, I may have to track that down and order it. Hopefully Amazon UK can deliver to the US.

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I was disappointed to find that instead of metric weight/mass based measurements, the version I ordered from Amazon.com had US/volume based measurements. I then ordered the version from Amazon.ca (Canada), which had the metric measurements on the pages shown at the site, but, alas, it shipped with the US measurements. Now I have two copies of the version I don't want. Perhaps the UK version has metric/mass based measurements, but I'm not sure if I'm willing to purchase a third version at this point...

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just return the one from Canada, if they show one thing and send an other, it's their fault and they should pay for shipping no problem.

I have the US version, unfortunately. Was an impulse buy that I wish I would not have made.

I love photos that show step by step how to do things, but showing me how to peel a mandarine is a bit much, and a waste of space. I'm not too intrigued or tempted to cook from this book, I might trade it in at the used book store some day. Should have spent more time looking at it closely I guess.

It seems very odd, coming from Adria.

Also giving quantities for 2, 6, 20 and 75 people seems rather odd and useless. I cook for 4, I'll have to recalculate every single recipe, and I'll never cook for 20, let alone 75, and most certainly not "at home".

But I think it's about time for me to move Heston's book off my Amazon wishlist and into my shopping basket :-)

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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  • 2 years later...

I checked this out of the library the other day and today tried the chocolate cookies. In the book, you are told to roll them into logs, freeze, slice. The baked cookie looked rich and shortbread-like.

What I found was that the batter was way too liquid to form into anything, even after I refrigerated it for an hour first. I poured it into waxed paper in my French bread pan and gave it my best shot. Left it in the freezer for 3 hours, and was still too soft and sticky to slice. Stuck to the waxed paper something awful. I scooped it into cookie-sized piles and baked, and what I got was a thin, very spread out cookie. Chewy.

Now I see that some of the measurements in the recipe got lost in translation from metric? Can anyone confirm for me the amounts of, say, flour in the recipe? This edition says 2 tsp of flour, which seemed a little strange to me, but had no cause for suspicion at that point.

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I checked this out of the library the other day and today tried the chocolate cookies. In the book, you are told to roll them into logs, freeze, slice. The baked cookie looked rich and shortbread-like.

What I found was that the batter was way too liquid to form into anything, even after I refrigerated it for an hour first. I poured it into waxed paper in my French bread pan and gave it my best shot. Left it in the freezer for 3 hours, and was still too soft and sticky to slice. Stuck to the waxed paper something awful. I scooped it into cookie-sized piles and baked, and what I got was a thin, very spread out cookie. Chewy.

Now I see that some of the measurements in the recipe got lost in translation from metric? Can anyone confirm for me the amounts of, say, flour in the recipe? This edition says 2 tsp of flour, which seemed a little strange to me, but had no cause for suspicion at that point.

What a strange recipe. But if you look at the quantity of flour required for 100 cookies it is three quarters of cup. That is 12 tablespoons. Divide that by five to get 20 cookies and you end up with 2+ tablespoons. However if you do the math on all the ingredients.....

I have two copies of the book and have never opened them since I received them. Perhaps the most disappointing cookbook I own!

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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What a strange recipe. But if you look at the quantity of flour required for 100 cookies it is three quarters of cup. That is 12 tablespoons. Divide that by five to get 20 cookies and you end up with 2+ tablespoons. However if you do the math on all the ingredients.....

I have two copies of the book and have never opened them since I received them. Perhaps the most disappointing cookbook I own!

 

Why? I found the recipes to be very accessible, but quite good nonetheless. (I even bought a copy for myself after we gave the book to my girlfriend's mother for christmas.)

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Now I see that some of the measurements in the recipe got lost in translation from metric? Can anyone confirm for me the amounts of, say, flour in the recipe? This edition says 2 tsp of flour, which seemed a little strange to me, but had no cause for suspicion at that point.

 

I'll have a look at the metric recipe for you.

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Why? I found the recipes to be very accessible, but quite good nonetheless. (I even bought a copy for myself after we gave the book to my girlfriend's mother for christmas.)

Let me count the ways

The recipes are untrustworthy

The meal plans are largely mundane

Cheese burger and potato chips?

The meals bring to mind a boarding house not a world class restaurant

This is my opinion. And you are certainly just as entitled to yours.

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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Let me count the ways

The recipes are untrustworthy

The meal plans are largely mundane

Cheese burger and potato chips?

The meals bring to mind a boarding house not a world class restaurant

 

Well, it's based on staff meals, not el Bulli menus. So yes, if one expects the latter, there is certainly a disconnect between that expectation an what the book delivers. As for the recipes being unreliable, I can't really comments as I've only done a few of them (or rather: some of their components - I generally don't cook full menus from any cookbook). However, I wonder if there might have been a problem with measurement conversions?

 

This is my opinion. And you are certainly just as entitled to yours.

 

I was not questioning your opinion, just interested in the reasons behind it.

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Well, it's based on staff meals, not el Bulli menus. So yes, if one expects the latter, there is certainly a disconnect between that expectation an what the book delivers. As for the recipes being unreliable, I can't really comments as I've only done a few of them (or rather: some of their components - I generally don't cook full menus from any cookbook). However, I wonder if there might have been a problem with measurement conversions?

 

 

I was not questioning your opinion, just interested in the reasons behind it.

Didn't mean to sound snippy. Sorry. I do think it is due to the coversion and perhaps I might feel a little less negative if I had the weight-based version rather than the volume one. And while I wasn't expecting elBulli cuisine (wouldn't know what to do with it anyways) I did expect something a little more inspired.

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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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