168 of 185 people found the following review helpful
A cottage industry run amok
, May 28, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook (Hardcover)
I fell in love with Cook's Illustrated magazine -- I've subscribed since the charter issue ten years ago. So I bought Chris Kimball's COOK'S BIBLE when it appeared. It included many of the same recipes lifted from the magazine, but that was okay, because it made searching for a particular dish easier. Shortly after that came his YELLOW FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK. More of the same. Meanwhile, the magazine is issuing individual-theme "booklets" for... It's up to a couple dozen by now, and all of them simply riffs on previously published material in the magazine. Then came Pam Anderson's (she was former exec ed and her absence is sorely missed) THE PERFECT RECIPE, which contained 30 of her COOK'S magazine articles. More repeats of the same information. A year later Cook's puts out THE BEST RECIPE, virtually identical to Pam's. More repeats of the same classic American fare. Now we have the BEST RECIPE SERIES, up to four at last count, the most recent being, AMERICAN CLASSICS, yet ANOTHER spin redux on mac-cheese and lemon meringue pie. What sets AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN apart is that at least it's based on something other than magazine articles -- in this case, the TV series, which in itself, however, is incestuously bound to many of the same tried-and-true recipes from the magazine (and all those previous books). All of this is perfectly legal of course. You can't be arrested for plaigirizing your own recipes. But is it ethical? How many more printed versions of the same roast chicken recipe do we need? You can find nearly the same one in all of the COOK's books. Furthermore, I've begun to notice that there are odd discrepancies creeping into their recommendations. A recent chocolate dessert recipe, for instance, advocated using one of two different brands of chocolate -- these two brands, in fact, being the only two "not recommended" of the dozen taste-tested in an issue the previous year. For me, this wholly undercuts the credibility of the magazine, making me doubt the judgment of Cook's staff, which is really the main thing going for it since their shtick is testing and then declaring the best, whether it's an ingredient or technique. It's no wonder that so many recipes are simply dragged and dropped from one book to another -- there's no way that the relatively small staff of the magazine could produce this amazing and tireless flood of COOK'S products. It's a shame because, for me, all this marketing and mercenary publishing have made me mistrust an old friend.
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