Stir Laugh Repeat, February 24, 2009
By S. Deeth "Sheila Deeth" (OR, USA) - See all my reviews
I never thought I'd write a review of a cookery book. Ask any of my family--I'm not exactly an expert in the kitchen. Though, of course, they should take at least some of the blame. It's hard to produce expert meals when you have so many conflicting requirements. Over Christmas there was me (no gluten), spouse (likes the texture of "real"--i.e. wheat-based--cooking), mother (no fresh fruit, under-cooked veg or spice), son #1 (nothing boring), son #2 (vegetarian, no nuts), son #3 (meat and two veg), and dog (anything and everything). At least the dog was easy to please.
But Martha Cheves' cookbook, despite so many of the recipes including packets and mixes (mostly with gluten), or meat (not vegetarian), is the perfect book for me. In this modern world where so many of us are allergic to one thing or another, cooking is all too often a question of sticking to the hypo-allergenic diet cook-book, or changing better-known recipes to suit. Martha is a cook who espouses substitution, and her book is the perfect stepping stone between the exotic ingredients of specialist recipes and the world of do-it-yourself.
It's also the perfect book just to sit down and read for ideas and entertainment. I don't usually laugh while reading a cook book, but some of Martha's culinary tales will have me smiling every time I go shopping. (I shall never look at a turkey the same way again!)
And it's the perfect book for someone who's not quite sure how a cook book works. For me, being English, there are many unseen pitfalls in American cooking, from how you measure a cupful of sugar (we use weights), to what you use instead of greaseproof paper. Martha answers these questions and more in tips scattered throughout the book, again, rewarding reading from cover to cover.
After finishing this book, you won't just know where to look for a good recipe, but you'll have the confidence to change the recipe according to what's in your cupboard. Cooking becomes an exercise in creativity, instead of a lesson in how well-prepared you are. And I look forward to stirring Martha's ideas, laughing as I change them, and repeating with many variations for years to come.