Customer Review

63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly organized, fussy but delicious looking food., October 27, 2011
This review is from: The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks (Hardcover)
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I love reading through new cookbooks, earmarking new recipes to try. These are recipes submitted by home cooks, and I was eager to find a new set of delicious but hopefully relatively simple things to try. This cookbook is beautiful, well written, and beautifully photographed--but is not for the unadventurous. Overly fussy titles like "Saffron Semifredo with Cherry Cardamom Syrup and Salted Honey Hazlenuts" left me puzzled and scared. Mostly, because I'm not sure I want anything with saffron, cherries, cardamom, and salted hazlenuts, but also because I can't envision a time when I'm going to want to put that recipe together. Many of the other recipes, to be fair, do seem more sensible, but overall this cookbook feels like it is grasping to be more a fine dining cookbook and less a home chef oriented cookbook, but it lacks the technique to be a truly adventurous fine dining experience, while requiring too much technique for those who are not pretty advanced at home. While home chefs may have come up with these recipes, I'm not going to be able to pull most of these off after work.

The book itself is great fun to peruse, however. As I said before, the photos are beautiful, the tips are interesting, and the recipes themselves look quite follow-able, assuming I have access to some of the harder to find ingredients and a fair amount of time to invest. Another complaint for me was how the recipes were put together. I know that this book was organized based on a web community and sort of contest mentality, and so seems to have been aimed towards folks who have some familiarity with that web site and contest. I have no such familiarity, and I found the organization of the book frankly baffling. Recipes are thrown together with little regard to how they might be used by the average home chef who is looking for a particular topic. This led to a sort of refreshing sense of discovery as I turned the pages--what will come next? Wow, why did they put that there? Oooh, what a cool idea to serve these things perhaps together...and I get that. But when I think about trying to use the book over the long haul, I'm a little concerned that it's going to be hard to flip through and find something that I need.

Ultimately, there are some recipes I'm going to try. But I don't think that this book will be a go-to cookbook for me. Rather, it will be something to be taken out and enjoyed occasionally.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2011 10:20:39 AM PDT
Luke's mom says:
Sounds like you should have visited the food52 website before you ordered the book - that way you would have known how well-versed in cooking the food52 community is and understood the format more fully.

I bet if you start using the book you will find some real winners inside. Bon appetit!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2011 10:53:01 AM PDT
Storylover says:
I disagree, Luke's mom. This is a cookbook, and should be able to stand alone as a cookbook. I find it too fussy. Still, I do agree that there are some really nice recipes here (see my review).

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 29, 2011 11:06:01 AM PDT
BB says:
I agree with Storylover's review.

Posted on Nov 14, 2011 1:54:20 PM PST
I don't really see "fussy" as a legitimate complaint, and let me explain why. This review has in common with a lot of reviews (including at least one I wrote several years ago, so I'm guilty too) that you're projecting your own opinions of the food onto a project with a fundamentally different view. After all is said and done, you're looking at a book of cooking contest results, and the recipes are naturally going to be more complex than a typical day-to-day meal might be. It's one thing to say that the food is outright unappealing and ding the book on that front; it's a different thing entirely to complain about the style of the recipes. It's sort of like saying that Chinese food (or whatever ethnic cuisine you might not care for) is just made wrong. it doesn't really make any sense in the greater context.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2011 7:40:37 PM PST
Storylover says:
I disagree. Excellent cuisine need not have a list of ingredients a mile long. Simplicity is a virtue admired by many of the great world chefs; fussiness for the sake of complexity need not be the mark of advanced cuisine...rather, it can be the mark of amateurish inexperience. Now, I'm not knocking the food here as a whole....my review was largely positive...but I am definitely knocking a theory of cooking that does not include a careful eye towards editing.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2011 11:58:11 AM PST
I understand what you mean, but I still don't agree. You can't really shoehorn someone else's cooking into your own expectations like that, not without at least understanding the context.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2011 10:27:48 PM PST
Storylover says:
Fair enough. I'm sticking to my opinion, but I can see yours. Cheers, bro.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2011 3:14:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2011 8:18:30 AM PST
Stanley Cup says:
I for one am grateful for your review. This book was listed on a website as being one of the Best 10 Cookbooks to buy/ give for the Christmas holiday. I must own about 30 cookbooks myself, so I when I saw this was so highly regarded, I came to Amazon to look at the reviews. I am so glad that you wrote what you did, because this type of cooking is not one that would appeal to my young family. They do not want fancy, multi-step prepared meals with extravagant sauces or octopus for dinner--they want good food that is relatively easy (and fast) to make. And I want to be able to assemble most meals with things I have on hand--not a trip to the grocery store every day in search of one or two ingredients that I would probably not use in other recipes. (I like Southern Living's Easy Weeknight Favorites because the food is good and the recipes are practical.) I am not in the demographic intended for this book, so I am no longer inclined to buy it. Thanks for a great review!
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Storylover
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Location: Philadelphia, PA USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 159