Customer Review

156 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changes the way you think about food and cooking, June 12, 2009
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This review is from: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking (Hardcover)
I've been cooking without recipes for 20 years now, pretty much since I could reach the counter, and I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals of home cooking.

Still, there are certain things that remained mystical. For some reason, we think of dough as something only a baker can make. It's not. It's 5 parts flour and 3 parts water. Home-made pies are too much trouble, right? Wrong. I can make a pie dough in less time than a typical TV commercial break (and now I know where the term 'easy as pie' came from). Homemade mayo is great, everyone knows that, but emulsions are hard to make and easy to break, right? Wrong. Just make sure you have the proper ratio of water to oil and you'll be fine (and you can easily re-emulsify if it does break).

If you're a novice in the kitchen, this book is going to really do a lot for you. You'll walk past the cake mixes and straight to the bags of flour. You'll find yourself never throwing leftovers away because leftovers+stock=fantastic soup. You'll transcend simple bread baking (which is still quite enjoyable) and discover the splendor of choux paste.

More importantly however, if you're very comfortable in the kitchen as I was, but still see a division between home cooking and fine cuisine, this is even more so the book for you. It will help bring things to your plate that you thought were reserved for the outer world. The best bread is the bread you bake. The best sauce is the sauce you dream up. The best soup is the one you made from scraps.

Of special note is the very important fact that everything in this book is not just possible, but it's easy as well. I am a big Alton Brown fan, and his endorsement of this book played a big part in my purchasing it, but ironically it was Alton himself that gave rise to much of my fear of trying to make certain types of food. As much as I love him, sometimes Alton makes things sound more complicated and delicate than they are. Ruhlman does the exact opposite and makes you realize just how simple most things are (or the foundations of those things at least). I've made some pretty bad stuff in my experiments so far, but the important thing is I know what made them bad and how to correct next time. I also understand how to manipulate ingredients to vary the results of the finished food (even when baking), which is priceless.

The bottom line is this: whether you're an experienced home cook or a slave to box mixes, you will learn a lot from Ratio and will be rewarded constantly. There hasn't been a Sunday morning since this book hit my door that hasn't been spent enjoying fresh, hot biscuits (3 parts flour, 1 part fat, 2 parts liquid; 5 minutes from brain to oven).

Enjoy.
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