108 of 143 people found the following review helpful
Didn't meet my expectations
, November 24, 2009
This review is from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl (Hardcover)
Ree cooks the kind of food many of us grew up eating (or wish we did!). It's not trendy. It's the kind of food my family likes to eat, though I'll admit that I've not tried many of her recipes. I've been cooking since I was in high school -- before Ree was born -- and many of the recipes she presents are virtually identical to recipes I've been cooking for years. Of the recipes I have tried, only half have been "keepers" and the other half have fallen into the "please don't make this again" category. I've only tried one of the new recipes from the book and it wasn't a keeper. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; I don't expect to love or want to try every recipe in a cookbook. I've had the most success with her brisket and southwestern recipes. One of my favorite things about the recipes is that Ree doesn't rely heavily on manufactured ingredients. They're not absent, but there's not a heavy use of them.
I expected to love this cookbook and I'm so disappointed that I don't. I expected more from this cookbook, not more of the same. On her website and in the introduction to the book she said that there were several old favorites and many new recipes. There are only 65 recipes in this book; 38 have already appeared on her website.
One of my complaints about this cookbook is the same one I have with many current cookbooks: it's not user-friendly. It's not a book that is easy to take into the kitchen and use. This is more like a coffee table book and I'm afraid I'll splatter food on it while cooking.
If you're familiar with Ree's blog, it's almost impossible not to compare it with the book. I like the blog better!
I'm not a fan of the step-by-step photos. On the web site, I can skip past all the photos and get to a recipe summary. In the book, there's no recipe summary. With pictures, most of the recipes are 3 pages long and some are longer. I find the photos to be more of a nuisance than helpful. However, I think they're helpful to new cooks. I faithfully read the comments to Ree's recipes and I've come to realize that there are many people who aren't knowledgeable, skilled, or confident in the kitchen. If you didn't grow up watching and helping someone in your home cook meals daily, the pictures will probably be most helpful.
I don't appreciate all the fluff in this book -- the pictures and stories of life on the ranch, Marlboro Man, punks, other family and friends, cattle, horses and dogs plus lots of color (borders at the top and bottom of every recipe page) and clip art with every recipe. It's very distracting. When a book is billed as a cookbook, I expect recipes.
The recipes are good examples of basic home cooking. I realize that there are a lot of people who don't know how to cook basic dishes and for them this is a good cookbook. For experienced home cooks with their favorite versions of pot roast, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and so on, there's little new or exciting. As I said above, many of Ree's recipes are virtually identical to those I've been cooking for years. I check Ree's cooking site frequently, but I'm looking for the rare new thing or a better version of something I already make.
The majority of the recipes serve 6-8 or more. I almost never cook for more than 3 people, so I have to cut everything down to a more reasonable number of servings. This is something I'm used to doing, but if you don't like doing the math or eating a lot of leftovers, it could be a problem.
Ree says that her cooking is "decidedly not non-caloric." She's right. I don't find this to be a problem, but I do watch the portions. If someone is looking for what many Americans believe is "healthy" cooking, this isn't the book for them. There's a lot of bacon, beef and butter!
I'm amazed at the number of 5-star reviews for this cookbook. I think they have a lot more to do with Ree's popularity than with the content of the book. In terms of how much is there and how good it is, it's a good cookbook, but it's certainly not great. I feel cheated because over 50% of the recipes and 75% of the total content of the book is available for free at her website. I can't think of another cookbook author who could deliver so little and get rave reviews for it.
I'm also surprised by the fact that she didn't acknowledge or thank her many readers. Without them, she probably wouldn't have been able to publish this book, have it be in Amazon's top 100 long before it was published and received so much publicity.
There's not a lot here for experienced cooks or those who follow her blog. It's a better book for beginners and those unfamiliar with her blog -- and who don't mind all the fluff included. There's too much visually distracting, extraneous material and too few recipes.
UPDATE: It's been a year since the book was published and my opinion of it hasn't changed. I've discovered that all the pictures with a recipe make me think the recipe is far more difficult or time consuming than it is. As much as I dislike all the pictures on the blog, I dislike them even more in the book. I think they make the book much more difficult to use. There are now more recipes from the book on her blog. When she publishes her next cookbook, I'll look at it closely at the bookstore before I buy.
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