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Customer Review

122 of 141 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Fair Review, April 26, 2004
This review is from: The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys (Hardcover)
Reading reviews of this book it seems that the vast majority are colored by the reviewer's view of Don Imus. Those who are fans of Don love the book. Those who don't like Don hate it (and many throw in a few personal insults for good measure). This review will be Imus-neutral.
The book essentially is in two sections. The first section is made up of two essays: a shorter one about life in the kitchen and a longer one about the ranch in general. Neither is spectacular. The kitchen one is the better of the two; mildly amusing in parts as it details how the kitchen is the center of the household and family, whether at the ranch or the reader's home.
I had some trouble with the second essay. While it does provide an interesting look at the workings of a real cattle ranch and how that relates to the kids it is somewhat preachy. Also, the piece is self-aggrandizing in places. In my opinion there's just too much of the "look at all the great, selfless things we do." I also found some of the text (especially the sidebars) a bit condescending as the tone shifts to "talking down" to the reader. One final nit: every mention of a product or service has a brand-name in front of it. I don't know if this is the result of cross-promotion agreements or what, but it puts a very commercial shade over the entire book.
The biggest problem with the essay part of the book is that it suffers from over-editing (more so the second essay than the first). As is stated in the Acknowledgements both were originally written by David Von Drehle (a fine writer in his own regard) and then rewritten. I suspect the book would have been better if Mr. Von Drehle's work had been left untouched. In particular, the second essay seems to have been written in the third- person (and obviously by an outsider), and then clumsily converted to first-person (Mrs. Imus). Literally, it seems like the conversion was a simple search-and-replace, converting all the original "they's" to "I's" and the like. This results in an essay which was supposedly "written" by someone with an intimate knowledge of the ranch (Mrs. Imus) but reads like a Sunday morning newspaper feature story. This contradiction in viewpoint leads to a number of sloppy transitions and a quite a few passages which just don't "read right."
On to the cookbook part of the book. It opens with a look at the ranch pantry, which is a very simple introduction to vegan ingredients and southwestern cooking. Nothing surprising here, and those looking for that sort of introduction should look elsewhere - the pantry description is just too brief.
The balance of the book consists of several hundred recipes broken down into the usual categories (breads, soups, salads, main dishes, etc.). I found nothing particularly innovative here - I mean, sloppy joes are sloppy joes however or wherever they're made! The recipes I've tried have been good, and they're certainly healthy. Most of the recipes are quick and simple to prepare, and meat and milk products can be substituted with only minor adjustments. I will say the southwestern recipes are a little tame for my taste, understandable for the "newbie" kids from across the country who will eat this food, and which is easily remedied with a little extra "heat."
A few closing comments. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs, and obviously a lot of work went into the pictures of both the ranch and the food. The overall graphic design is also top-notch. The only thing I'd like to have seen was a recipe index; some are hard to find buried in the overall index, and some are listed in odd places even there.
Bottom line? If you support the ranch (as I do) or are curious about it or vegan cattle ranch food (an oxymoron?) in general buy the book. If you do not, there are plenty of better vegan and/or southwestern cookbooks available. My score: 2 of 5 for the recipes, 2 of 5 for the writing, and 4 of 5 for both the layout and the photos. Overall, 3 of 5.
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