356 of 378 people found the following review helpful
5Great book with the right expectations
ByMark Fennyon December 9, 2012
Disclaimer: I am a real reviewer who actually purchased and read the book. I felt compelled to write my first review because I was annoyed in two ways: first, the clearly fake reviewers, second, the readers who came in with ridiculous expectations about the contents of the book.
Second disclaimer: I am NOT a Tim worshiper. The 4-Hour Workweek is a sometimes unethical pipe dream that a couple people writers imitating Tim have made money on. For most of us, it contains a couple tricks to be more efficient at our 9-5. The 4-Hour Body is a relatively interesting and fun book on fitness and diet experimentation. I learned a few tips and tricks from it and really enjoyed reading about his experiences. I have read most of Tim's blog and consider it a sometimes better alternative to "Life Hacker".
Those two disclaimers being said, this is a GREAT book if you come in with the right expectations. If you're looking for 600+ pages solely devoted to grocery shopping, prep, recipes, cooking and eating, you will not find it here. You'll find about 200-250 pages dedicated solely to such, and 200 more at least somewhat related--consisting of wilderness cooking and survival, great restaurants, 140 character recipes, and basic tools you need in the kitchen. At a macro level, the most useful cooking lessons are Tim's notes on equipment to have in your kitchen, his 10 easy recipes (most of which are really interesting/easy shortcuts), and the charts on spices that go with different countries. At a micro level, I picked up a few random tidbits from the 1/2-pagers on how to quickly defrost a steak, how to make the perfect cup of coffee, etc. The most important part of this section is that Tim teaches you HOW to cook, not just how to follow a recipe. The best part about his methodology is that he removes all roadblocks from the reader--the excessively expensive equipment, the hard to find ingredients, and the difficult cooking techniques are all put nicely out of mind with shortcuts and detailed pictures.
The rest of the book, in my opinion, is actually more interesting. The first section is about a hundred pages are worth the price of admission alone. It details a method to learn anything efficiently--Tim is merely using cooking as a MEDIUM to teach this method. I've started applying this first section to learning a number of skills already. As the middle sections are the ones devoted to cooking and wilderness survival that I detailed above, the appendix is related to random skills and interesting "life hacks" that you can learn quickly. Yes, these feel like last-minute additions but if one thing is clear Tim actually cares about his readers, why not throw in these interesting pages--they do not detract from the focus as they are part of the appendix.
If I can say one thing--buy this book. For me, I can see myself going back to it for years anytime I'd like to learn a new skill (be it with cooking or otherwise). If you want to learn HOW to cook taught in an unpretentious tone with easy to follow pictures, you'll find it here. If you're interested in shortcuts to learning complex skills, you'll find it here. If you just want to pick up a few cooking shortcuts, you will most definitely be delighted with this book. And lastly, if you are a fan of Tim and his other works, absolutely buy this book.
Lastly, a note on format, BUY THE HARDCOVER. I bought the Kindle as well since it was on sale for just $4.99 on Amazon and it does not even come close to comparing to the hardcover version. This book is meant to have pages cut out and marked up, its detailed color pictures to be seen, etc.
840 of 908 people found the following review helpful
3Zen and the Art of Just About Everything
ByDebra Eve "Proud Later Bloomer"on November 21, 2012
Tim Ferriss tells you right off that this isn't a book about cooking, just like Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance isn't about Zen or changing oil. He'll teach you how to handle a knife and make a few interesting dishes, but mostly he takes you on a long, strange, self-indulgent, and sometimes useful trip.
What I enjoyed:
-- Ferriss's storytelling. He has a nice way with words: "Mangalitsa acorn-finished woolly boar tasted just like acorns. I was chewing on fall, clear as crystal, in a sliver of cured ham."
-- His emphasis on the slow food movement and local, organic farming. (But strangely, his "Clean 15" foods include sweet corn, which is mostly genetically modified.)
-- His language hacking tips, which are gold. I've always wanted to master several languages and found his methodology solid and logical.
-- The 140-character Twitter recipes from almost every country in the world: fun, simple, and intriguing.
What I didn't like:
-- Ferriss's tangential teaching style. At one point he goes from braising to English's 100 most common written words to kickboxing to chess to tango spins in order to emphasize the importance of selection and sequencing. It didn't work for me, because I often lost track of the original concept.
-- His foray in into survival and hunting skills, just so you can make your own venison burger. (If you want some cricket protein bars, however, you'll need to mail order the crickets.) This section could have been a separate book and might have been fascinating as a metaphor/methodology for learning entrepreneurial skills.
-- His unrealistic (for the busy person) science experiments, such as making arugula spaghetti using a syringe and flexible tubing just to avoid that dreaded white flour. (Though some of his cocktails in the same section sound delicious.)
If I were to sum up this book in one word, it would be "manic": excessively enthusiastic and somewhat disorganized. Ferriss is obviously a curious and driven guy. I came away feeling he gets satisfaction from the ability to tackle and master anything, but not joy.
There are a few good suggestions, tips, tricks, and pieces of advice in this book....but in order to find them, you have to suffer through Ferriss' grating ego, vague hand-waving about his ill-defined and probably fabricated system for learning things really fast, self-aggrandizement, and weird humor. Perhaps others find him more charming than I do, but if you really want to learn the principles critical to becoming a self-reliant and expert cook, you can do so without the BS - buy Cooks Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking, take a knife skills class, and read food blogs.
The book is titled incorrectly. I pre-ordered the book a year ago when I saw a few cooking demo videos by Tim Ferriss. It turns out the book is a poorly written, ill-conceived attempt at something that should have been titled "4 Hour Life".
It would be fine as a compendium of assorted and strange facts and bits of useless information that could be fun at a dinner party.
As an instructional guide for cooking, it seems to be written for people who have never entered a kitchen before. Which is fine, but dumbs down the approach to cooking to become nearly unbearable to read.
I usually enjoy Tim Ferriss' work, this is a total disappointment, complicated by the fact that reading it on a kindle made the diagrams impossible to decifer.
I bought the book for my kindle and a LOT of links are broken or -which is worse- they send me to a wrong page. Sometimes I ended up in a loop and the only way to get out of it was to go to he next chapter and find my way backwords... not easy, since the table of contents just lists the beginning of the macrochapters. It makes everything very frustrating.
Amazon customer service was super kind and super quick and sent me an updated version... which still has several of these glitches.
Don't know what I expected going in but this book hopped around like a flea on a griddle. Most of it made zero sense. Granted, I'm dyslexic and marginally autistic (which should be an advantage understanding this guy's topsy-turvy logic) but even with a brain that's hard-wired upside down and backwards I couldn't make hide nor hair of this nonsense.If you want to be a better cook, get out to the kitchen and experiment until something edible results - don't spend your money on this book.
Do not let the size of Tim's latest book deter you. Yes it's as big as an encyclopedia but it's also as useful and structured as such. In fact, like his last book, it's more a reference that you can jump to the parts that interest you most.
As a health, fitness and nutritional expert, I have found myself disagreeing with certain aspects of Tim's methods (or explanations) of them in the past, but for the most part I love his approach to experimentation, life and bio-hacking and determining what works best for you.
First, what I disliked: The name of the book. It's actually misleading. Although innovative recipes and methods of cooking seem to comprise the majority of the content, there are a lot of non-cooking related topics that are equally as useful. A more apt title might be The 4-Hour Jack of All Trades With A Specialization In Cooking Cool Stuff. Ok I know that's a terrible title, but the book conveys so much more than cooking.
I'm a huge learning-addict, so the "Meta Learning" chapter was what I jumped to first. That's a smart idea because there's a lot to "digest" in this book.
Next, I jumped to the Sexy Steak chapter because that had one of the most alluring names obviously.
Now, I'm a big proponent of Juicing Vegetables...but I have to admit, a good grass fed steak is an awesome treat and I look forward to using Tim's recipe...including the Pine Pollen...which for reasons I won't be discussing on this review is already on order :) (read the book to understand why.)
How to use this book for maximum effectiveness? Keep it handy in your kitchen or coffee table. Flip to it when you're bored or want to try something new.
Most importantly, try out the recipes, learn something new and give life a new flavor. After all, that's what I think Tim's work is really about...adding spice to life and finding new, exciting ways to live it.
I look forward to finishing your book Tim...or most of it at least. (And no, I don't regret having bought the physical book for 4x the cost of the kindle, because I might need to use it as a survival weapon)
I wrote a very lengthy review when I was only 1/3 through the book. I didn't slam the book per se, but I focused a lot on problems I had with it. Now I'm 2/3 through the book, and I have to edit my review to reflect the fact that I can't put it down, and can't wait to cook my way through this thing. Even with its imperfections, I love this book.
Here are the problems I had with the book: (1) Tim has an ever-shifting curiosity, bordering on a very intellectual ADD. Overall, I actually enjoyed many of the deviations and found that a lot of Ferriss's interests (fitness, basketball, guns, survivalism, alternative proteins) parallel mine. On the other hand, it could get distracting for someone only interested in food, and a lot of the "this is a technique for learning in general, using food" stuff doesn't work. The first section is especially rife with esoteric metaphors. (2) The self-promotion often falls just shy of pretension--so many anecdotes start off with how Tim sucked at something, heard an unconventional shortcut from a mysterious stranger/named semi-celeb, and then suddenly could perform that thing at a professional level with no effort or training (#humblebrag). The format was engaging the first few times and then quickly got old. Frustratingly, the stories and advice from these anecdotes can be inconsistent. Honestly, I could go into it, but I say that you are better off reading the first section until boredom takes over and then skip to "DOM," the second section. While I recognize some value in the first section of the book about learning in general, at most it is worth a skim unless you are interested in learning that particular skill or need to psyche yourself up about cooking for 600 pages through the art of obscure metaphor.(3) A last criticism is with the hyperbolic and gimmick-heavy tone. The 4 hour thing is totally unnecessary here--what I found to be an engaging, creative, and worthwhile approach did not need to be shoe-horned into the "4-Hour" brand Tim is cultivating for himself. This material is great, and no, you won't be able to read this whole book, much less do everything in it, in 4-hours.
But if you cut through the bs, hype, and hyperbole, there are some great tips on equipment you may want, techniques to use (I learned some cool tricks for juicing lemons, flavor combos, and tea pairings), and some quick and easy recipes vetted by a man whose health-conscious diet is more restrictive than mine (as opposed to the usual chunks of butter I find myself substituting out of recipes) and whose taste and experiences easily trump my own. But I do think the "DOM" section, albeit not without some advice I personally consider wrong (see his advice on garlic, knives, eggs, and others), is worth the $10 or so the entire book costs on kindle. I got some really great recipe ideas and the way Tim presents recipes, techniques, and principles of general applicability is organized and a pleasure to follow. This is the first food related book I have highlighted and annotated (on my ipad of course).
Overall, you need to keep in mind the target demographic: people who have previously had very little interest in cooking and are looking for an easier way to get into it. This book seems especially suited for fans of Tim's other work who feel like following him from personal health into the world of cooking. For the rest of us, Tim still has a contagious enthusiasm for food, cooking, and life that really comes through in his writing. Although I found much of the beginning of the book frustratingly irrelevant and bristled at the often self-serving stories, it's definitely worth its dollar cost. (That the first section may be largely useless to you is something to consider if debating between the ebook and the hard copy, because I feel it's not worth its physical weight). If you are an experienced home cook looking to up your game, you may be disappointed or even aghast at some of the advice here. But I did learn a lot about food ...and everything else in the world. However, even if you fancy yourself a pretty proficient cook, Tim's recipes take out a ton of the work of sifting through online and paper-copy recipes, and modifying them to fit a fitness-conscious lifestyle. If you, like me, are into personal fitness, eating clean/healthy, saving time dishes and money, then Tim has taken all of the work out for you. I love how he suggests alternative ingredients and methods along the way to not only allow wiggle-room, but to teach would-be chefs how to improvise and substitute. I initially read this thing like a book with the intent to pick up some good ideas here and there, but I am going to start over from the beginning and cook my way through this entire book.
As a final note, I have met Tim several times (I'm one of the Jiu Jitsu practitioners he talks about in one of the metaphorical anecdotes) and can tell you from personal experience that Tim is a sincere, eager, intelligent, and talented guy who, yes is obviously great at self-marketing for maximum profit, but also genuinely wants to teach people things and improve their lives in exchange for their buck.
I ordered the kindle version and the hard copy. The hard copy just arrived yesterday and I must say it is way better than the kindle version. So If you are going to get this book, it's really worth paying a bit more for the hard copy. So should you buy this book? Go to Tim Ferris's blog, if you find it interesting then get the book. Just as a clarification, the book is not a compilation of slow carb recipes, it is more than that. He discusses how to learn languages, reviews survival gear, how to memorize long numbers..etc. I found the recipes, especially the advanced ones to be pretty cool. Personally, I liked this book, and that is why I give it a high rating. I didn't give it 5 stars just because some of the material in the 4 hour chef is covered in the 4 hour body, and mainly because there is just some material in there that I have a hard time believing...like "how to shoot a 3 Pointer in 48 hours..." . Either way it's a fun read...I find Tim to be pretty funny...and kind of sexy :) I am glad I got the book...but I will say this is definetely not a book for everyone. Like I said go to his Blog, and then you will know.
To call Tim a hype artist is not necessarily an insult. You can learn a lot from his style, which boils down to three constants:
1) CONSTANT NAME DROPPING. It doesn't matter if the people aren't "famous" famous, (although we get a story about how a chef he knows met Justin Timberlake).
Any idea, from hunting pigeons to making wax bowls (both things you probably didn't realize you were going to learn when you bought this book) is presented first by an introduction to an iconoclastic figure who discovered the optimized, underground version that they then confided to Tim.
Tim isn't just familiar with the technique of sous-vide, he is close friends with it's "greatest" practitioners (etc).
2) CONSTANT ECCENTRIC BOASTS / HUMBLE-BRAGS. If you've read Tim before you're used to this... he holds the record for the world's longest tango, he gains and loses 100 lbs in a month at will, he has the top 5 e-mail management techniques to boost your productivity by 437% in 3 minutes etc.
Throughout this book on "cooking" we learn that Tim can master any language in weeks (but he has never allowed himself to be videoed having a basic conversation with native speakers in any of these, strange for someone so otherwise exhibitionist).
We learn that Tim, unlike you and I, will probably survive the apocalyspe because he can capture bears in a trash can and cook french fries with their fat.
Tim doesn't just successfully prepare a new dish, he earns "amazing sex" afterwards as a result.
We learn that Tim has omniscient taste in music allowing him to match a different song (and strand of tea... sure, why not) to each dish. I'm sure my grandma and someone in Malaysia (etc.) will all universally be into Tim's song selections.
(I can imagine accomplished cooks probably feel the same way about Tim's take on food as I do about his take on music.)
I was also confused by his "grand mission" behind the book, to help save the environment by getting people to eat tons more meat. (He even cites a talk with Barack Obama's former chef as an inspiration.)
Look, I don't think people's dinners should be mainly dependent on environmental impact (I'm not a vegetarian), but let's be honest, meat production, especially on a Ferris-approved scale for anything more than a sliver of humanity, means vastly more resources used and more contamination produced.
The symphony of self-congratulation is "tempered" by try-hard self-deprecations about how he couldn't make scrambled eggs or identify basic herbs until just recently.
The fact that he would think people should buy a treatise on gourmet cooking (and "nutrition") from a guy who didn't know how to cook until a few years ago is, I guess, about on par for a guy who thought people should take highly unconventional health advice (much of it contrary to the combined wisdom of 99% of the scientific and medical establishment) from a guy who made his first fortune selling supplements claiming to make your nerves work more quickly for martial arts fights.
The snake oil salesman is one of America's greatest folk heroes (look no further than our politicians), and Tim Ferris is not without his charm or originality.
He fuses the first two together with his secret sauce...
3) UNCONVENTIONAL WHIMS AND PERSONAL RESEARCH offered up as new gospel truth.
This was most on display in the 4 Hour Body, but that work actually underlies the 4 Hour Chef, which you need to know ahead of time if you expect to find recipes using rice, pasta, bread, normal potatoes, etc.
You know, foods that make up the staples of life everywhere outside Greenland, especially in places like the Mediterranean or Japan, which boast the highest life-expectancies in the world, all somehow without their residents having to wear body monitors and have their blood checked for the latest trendy amino acid chain.
I had a short back-and-forth exchange with Ferris about his high-protein diet claims a while back. (Not too easy with a guy who never answers e-mail.)
I presented him with the results of meta-studies that showed that high protein (especially high animal protein) diets are linked to the most common causes of death - cardiovascular disease and cancer. And that, while they can jump start weight loss (because you feel fuller after eating protein) long-term adherence to such diets is also linked with declining organ function of various kinds.
He responded by justifying his "food hacks" on "evolutionary" grounds - firstly, that human physiology evolved before we ate grains (false), and secondly that grains themselves have evolved "toxic defenses" to aid their own survival. (The latter is an inversion of reality, as grains have been selected for thousands of years to be increasingly edible by people.)
So that's the background for his quirky dietary laws, which are assumed to be normal for all readers.
Don't worry, because he has other experts back him up who also have books you can read and supplements you can buy, and he tested it all out on his own blood and found that he became a superman in the process. (Don't pay attention to pictures of him, even those in the book, that make him look a lot older than his actual age.)
WHY DID I READ THIS?
I actually admire Tim's over-sized ambitions. The 4 Hour Work Week's core message that time and freedom are true wealth was a breath of fresh air for me. Despite scamminess in his examples and mechanics, his encouragement to apply emerging technology to one's work life to maximize freedom was inspirational to me.
The 4 Hour Body saw him return to his (extra virgin) snake oil roots, but still had some good basic tips about cutting down on empty calories and introducing more vegetables to your diet, as well as how to get more out of less time spent exercising.
I searched in vein for such simplifying lessons in this book. Instead I found a boyish obsession with the use of "extreme" and uncommon ingredients like glycerin and eel. That kind of long-tail culinary thematics plus the "paleo" dogma constitutes quality a la The Four Hour Chef. Not exactly comfort food, or something that will simplify your life or budget
I did learn about braising, which as Tim says is tasty and allows for large margins of error in cooking time. I may also get a meat thermometer.
That's where the second star came from, and the book is so massive that most people can probably pick up a trick or two like that that appeals to them personally
Just make sure you're an expert in speed reading before you try to find those. Don't worry, Tim is already, and he definitely reminds you of that in this book.
Tim ferriss rehashes his four hour body but this time uses food as his medium. To say i was completely underwhelmed by this book is an understatement. Save your money and make this smug git have to get a proper job