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Showing 1-10 of 211 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 277 reviews
on December 4, 2011
So I ordered the book back on October 21st and am devouring it. It's one of those truly good books that makes me feel like I just got off the phone with a close friend -and does actually make me "laugh out loud". It's joined the ranks of a small number of books good enough to make me buy multiple copies to give to friends, family, and total strangers (I've bought 3 copies of this book in the last month). Just what I needed after the let-down that was Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes. Even better than The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week), though I loved that book, too.

The book is strongest when it compares a finished product from the store (a loaf of bread) to what she can make at home using store bought staples (flour, salt, yeast). Since store-bought cream is more expensive than store-bought butter, she concludes it is not cost-effective to make your own butter. This in turn works best with products that were once homemade (hummus, peanut butter, bacon) and less well with items that are an industrial invention (poptarts).

The book does not work as solidly outside of this format, such as when she discusses gardening, bees, chickens, and goats. These chapters are entertaining, but not as well constructed from a cost-benefit-analysis point of view:

The fruit and vegetable sections are shockingly short (vegetables is 6 pages; fruit is 7 pages, 2 of which are for making lard). We try to get as much produce as possible from the backyard (and it meets her criteria of "cheaper, better, and less hassle than a trip to the grocery store"), and especially love the ultra-cheap orange juice and pomegranate juice, so I was surprised at the omission.

The chickens, bees, and goats sections make hilarious and thought provoking stories, but are incomplete in answering the question: "Make or Buy?" SPOILERS: Regarding eggs, she doesn't compare the cost-per-dozen of store-bought eggs versus backyard eggs. Rather, she compares what she was spending at the store a year (about $150, it sounds like) with the cost of housing and caring for 19 birds at a time (she seems to have bought a total of 29); the former provided her the exact number of eggs she needed while the latter left her drowning in eggs, even with giving them away to all takers. Take away lessons: when you build a run, make it predator proof (see Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World for good advice here) and don't buy more chickens than you need. 3 or 4 is plenty; they live in much less space and require only 1 nesting box (resulting in MUCH cheaper building costs), they use considerably less feed, straw, and wood shavings and so your ongoing costs are less, too. Because we garden, eggs aren't all we get from the chickens. Each chicken produces 45 pounds of manure a year, which mixes with the deep-bedding straw in their run to make wonderful compost (which we muck out once a year).

SPOILERS: Regarding the bees, I was surprised she didn't have any use for the beeswax. With Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, I use beeswax in concocting deodorant, lip balm, decongestant chest rub, furniture polish, lotion, and more. It's what finally convinced me I need to get some bees. She says she got 3 gallons of honey in 6 months from 2 hives and that it would "last her family a decade." But what if you took the many recipes in this book that call for sugar and reformatted them to work with honey? And she said her "bee folly" cost $1,200 or $25/cup of honey -but that includes Hive 3 and Hive 4, which she had to know were doomed to fail. If the original 2 hives cost $600 and they gave all 3 of the gallons (she says she got nothing from the next 2 before they died), that's *really* $12.50 a cup. Which is still insane, but if they had survived... And in cases where a project was too productive (eggs, honey), she *could* recoup costs by selling the excess (she says the bees and chickens were the 2 projects that ate up the savings created by other projects).

SPOILERS: Regarding the goats, the book is published before either gives birth and therefore before either gives milk, so there's not much information there. And she doesn't mention what she might do with the 2 kids (the original pair of goats -the mothers- cost her $450 so I wonder if she could sell the babies for $450 and recoup some costs? As is, she concludes that goats' milk is "buy". January 28 update: I just finished Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living which had this to say: "The first rule of selecting a goat is don't buy pedigree unless you're going to breed for profit. There's no reason for a pedigree goat. It's like paying for a show dog when you just want a friend to take on walks. A good mixed-breed goat costs between twenty and fifty dollars. Pedigree goats can be in the hundreds or more." (p. 89) "Goats typically give birth to two babies at a time." (p. 100) So, if you pay $50 each for a pair of goats and can get even $20 each for their four offspring (which would just about recover the stud fee expense), the math shouldn't be devastating. Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living, by the way, would make a great companion to this book.
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on September 2, 2014
This book was a fun read, but the recipes so far are far less than impressive.

I am an accomplished bread-baker, but am always up for trying new recipes. Therefore, the first recipe tried from this book was her "Everyday Bread." I had misgivings from the start, but I plugged on. I should have listened to my gut, as the recipe produced two bricks that weren't even edible straight from the oven (and I've found that even pretty awful bread is good straight from the oven with butter!). This weekend, I made the chocolate birthday cake recipe. This turned out fine, however, it's worth nothing that it is basically a Wacky cake AND it comes from someone else's cookbook (The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken). The author includes a cooked icing recipe and says that her grandmother made it differently, but she feels this method is easier. The icing turned out okay, but not great, and I'm left wanting to ask how her grandmother made it, because I strongly suspect it's much better if made that way.

I also found her difficulty/hassle ratings to be baffling at times. For instance, she says that roasting your own chicken is a hassle and you should just buy a rotisserie chicken, but that homemade marshmallows are not at all a hassle. I'm not sure what planet she's from, on either account. A roast chicken is no work at all. And marshmallows, while not difficult, are a pain in the butt and a massive mess.

I will probably try a couple more recipes in the name of science, but thus far, I am not impressed. I'd suggest borrowing the book for a fun read, but pass on actually making anything from it.
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on January 9, 2013
I just finished reading this book cover-to-cover today. I tend to do that with cookbooks anyway... but this one was especially fun, with its content as much entertaining anecdotes about family and cooking as it is recipes... including whether or not to raise chickens, goats, turkeys, bees... (I do have 3 beehives, and better luck with them!)

While I have not yet tried any of the recipes per se, the recipe for ricotta is very close to the one I always use with my raw milk. I'll be interested in trying the yogurt, since my raw-milk yogurt is usually really watery (though bread and our dog love the whey!). I've also made a lot of sauerkraut based on Katz's recipe, 1 recipe of kimchee similarly based, and several of the cured meats based on "Chaucuterie", and all of these have been delicious. This gives me faith in her other recipes. (If, when I cook more specifically out of this book and they do not work out well, I'll update this review.)

I am VERY appreciative of her personal approach to the perennial DIY question "Is it worth it?" I'm rather a DIY nut- as the previous indicates- so my answer is usually "Of course!" even when that is not a particularly sensible answer! And personally, I am itching to have the freezer space to make and freeze croissant dough and puff pastry. And I bet I could make a mean Napolean with that puff pastry.

If you're a DIY fan, I think you'll love this book, even when you disagree with her assessments. it's just so much fun! If you're not- well, this is probably not for you, unless you want to read it as a horror story and thank all relevant gods that you are not tempted to buy ducklings on impulse.

Edited to add: I just made the marinara sauce from this and put it on spaghetti. Wonderful! A very clean flavor, and a very straightforward recipe.
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on March 16, 2017
There is too much narrative, but I like that the author provides cost breakdowns with each recipe. I would also want more commonly made household foods represented in this book. Some of the recipes are so out there. If it's not something you would make at home, why include it in a cookbook?
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on April 1, 2014
LOVE this book!! I checked it out from the library so many times that I finally decided I had to buy my own copy. LOTS of great recipes and the stories about the authors forays into keeping livestock are hilarious and hauntingly familiar. If you want to know what it's really like to raise your own animals make sure to read this first. Wish I had before my two goats killed half of my trees. If only I had read this first, I wouldn't have been taken in by those cute little faces.
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on April 2, 2017
Good book. Chalk full of useful ideas and concepts. Loved reading about why and when of things. Especially the goat fiasco!
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on June 14, 2014
I had read a review about this book in the NY Times, and it turned out my wife had read this. She said it was excellent. The author tells you what things make sense to make yourself, and what things you should just buy. A big thumbs up.
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on April 15, 2014
I try to do everything from scratch, and this book has become a go to reference for me. Not only is it a good read but the descriptions and recipes are excellent. The hummus recipe has become a fast favorite for us at home, and is requested when I gather with friends and family.
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on March 13, 2017
I have made several recipes and adjusted a few for my liking. Love this book. The marshmallows are amazing.
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on April 20, 2017
Really fun book.
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