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Everything's "authentic" now. That is, we're seeing more and more "real" people in advertising. Men who look like Sam Shepard. Women with the grit of Edie Falco.

Not hard to understand why --- we're sick of fakes.

But here comes the irony: There's too much "authentic." It's not accurately defined --- most of what is now labeled "authentic" is just a new form of "fake."

Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer --- the women who create the seasonally-published Canal House cookbooks --- really are authentic. This is their description of their workspace in Lambertville, New Jersey, just across the river from New Hope, Pennsylvania:

"Our loft studio is in an old red brick warehouse. A beautiful lazy canal runs alongside the building. We have a simple galley kitchen. Two small apartment-size stoves sit snugly side by side against a white tiled wall. We have a dishwasher, but prefer to hand wash the dishes so we can look out of the tall window next to the sink and see the ducks swimming in the canal or watch the raindrops splashing into the water."

Why do I believe them? I've been there. Seen them in action. Real people, real food. I'd admired them before; now I adore them.

"Authentic" --- real authentic --- means listening to yourself. That's what Hamilton and Hirsheimer did in Volume 5. Those recipes were totally unexpected, and, in a recession, shocking: Fried oysters. Escargots. Four kinds of goose liver. Scrambled eggs with truffles. Lobster with browned cream. Truffled lobster with gnocci. What was the point? Who did they think their readers were? Why, thee and me. They just wanted us, in a grim time, to be extra-good to our friends and family --- and ourselves --- on special occasions.

How like Hamilton and Hirsheimer, in Volume 6, to take The Supermarket as their theme. Not the aisles with store brands and ingredients you can't pronounce. But not Whole Foods, either. Just your basic chain store, with more choices than anyone needs --- and more specialty and quality foods than they did when Mom was pushing the cart around. Like organic chickens. And locally grown vegetables.

The recipes are not fancy --- as they write, this is "home cooking for home cooks by home cooks." The big idea is excellent products, straightforward preparation, smart spicing. Which yields dishes like Braised Escarole with White Beans. Fish Sticks (yes, fish sticks). And a killer Gingered Chicken with Cream.

Authentic to the max, say I.
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on January 5, 2013
I started out with the first in their series of book/magazines and was instantly in love. I adored the workspace studio they occupy, their friendship (the two authors Christopher & Melissa, two BFF's)and their practical approach to cooking, eating, shopping, photography and writing about food.

Unfortunately the last three issues have been more and more pretentious. I do not eat this way and nor does anyone I know (even the foodiest foodies), living on filet mignon like its beef jerky and putting shaved black truffles into everything. I mean good heavens - they call themselves "home cooks" - what home? Beyonce & Jay-Z?

This is not my home certainly and I do pretty well for myself but my truffle, filet mignon and lobster budget is not really a factor.

The authors did not start out like this and I have rated the other books higher. Also since I got their new cookbook Canal House Cooks Everyday, I was disappointed to find that most of the recipes in it are in the previous volumes of their subscription effort.

The books are BEAUTIFUL however (especially the compendium version just released though I wish they had called it that)and I love the smaller size, that makes them readable and manageable in the kitchen. The new cookbook is huge and heavy and would break a toe if you dropped it on your foot.

The recipes are good for the most part, I've made quite a few dishes in the previous volumes. I have found a few recipes that had too little or too much salt and they tend to like lots of fat in everything, so you may need to adjust certain recipes to your own style of eating.

In this volume however there wasn't much that tickled my fancy. I have yet to finish the seventh issue, which was written about their stay in Tuscany which continues the theme of pretension because you know we can all jet off to Tuscany just to experience actually COOKING Italian food in Italy. Ugh.
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on March 9, 2013
This was a bargain book, but there was never a mention that it would be stained with ink and dirty, like it was played with by a small child with a permanent marker and then dragged down an asphalt road and run over a few times for good measure. I look forward to my replacement copy and drooling and dreaming over the beautiful pictures and kitchen inspiring recipes. I especially look forward to having an abundance of tomatoes and trying the tomato jam recipe in Vol. 4 and the World's best waffles in this volume.
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on January 7, 2012
I'm glutting on cooking books and I wanted to write a review of this one but now it is tricky to know what to say. The recipes are hit and miss, when they are good their really good but then the bad ones are just boring. But I like the books anyway because they are beautiful and for that reason are inspiring. I recommend you flip through them at your bookstore and see the pictures because they are so pretty they inspire me to cook and you might find them inspirational too.
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on March 23, 2014
Interesting cooking series with great pictures, interesting recipes, and good descriptions of cooking techniques that are great but unusual. Not your everyday cookbook!
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on February 17, 2015
I love every single book in this collection - Perfect - fantastic!
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on September 4, 2014
Very disappointed in this volume. A book titled "The Grocery Store" should fufill its promise, not simply provide an essay about one specific high-end store, adding some details about how the authors shop for each other. There was no insight for the vast majority of shoppers who must deal with "regular" grocery stores. I was let down by The Canal House authors.
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on October 26, 2015
Another great book from these two talented women.
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