“We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries…”

by Katie Pizzuto on June 30, 2010

in Cookbooks

Generally, what I ask of someone teaching me how to do something, is to speak to me under the general assumption that I actually have an evolved, functioning brain…and that I have long outgrown my pre-pubescent tendencies. I’d also like to think that by simplifying a process for me it wouldn’t, by default, mean dumbing it down. Say, for instance, I want to learn how to play the sousaphone, and I buy a book called The Art of Playing a Sousaphone—play along, it could happen. In no way, shape or form do I want that book to include chapter titles like “Ho-Dee-Ho, Let’s Learn to Blow” or “When All Else Fails: Scales, Scales, Scales!” In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw the first one in an ancient Kamasutra text, but that’s beside the point.

Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens is a new cookbook out this summer that supposes you can make, “fun and delectable meals despite the lack of counter space and high-tech, expensive appliances and gadgets.” Mind you, I haven’t seen the book, been sent a review copy, bought it, smelled it, touched it or even farted in its general direction, but I did receive an email with four of its recipes and I was forced to stop what I was doing (oh, OK, I really wasn’t doing much) and write about them. The recipes were: Holy Moly Chicken Pasole, Nobody Better Lay a Finger on My Corn Fritter, Make No Mistake Coffee Cake and Rhubarb Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. I feel compelled to mention that this is NOT by any stretch of the imagination, a cookbook for children or even teens. If you are looking to make “Gourmet Meals” and you want to do so in a kitchen described with the potty word “Crappy,” I’m pretty sure you’re chronologically, if not mentally, an adult. So why, for fuck’s sake, does Jennifer Schaertl think you need saccharine-drenched recipe titles in order to get you to cook?! Beats me. I also need to mention that the chick can’t spell because it’s technically not “Pasole,” it’s Posole or Pozole.

What also got me going was the unique angle the book took—cooking without expensive appliances and gadgets—in what is certainly a saturated cookbook market right now. I took a quick glance at some of the cookbooks on my kitchen shelf just to make sure I wasn’t being a wench about this, but the truth is that “gourmet meals” created by the likes of Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Danny Meyer and James Beard seldom require any appliances more exotic than a food processor, a stove and/or an oven. Oh, wait, and a knife and cutting board. Rick Bayless’ Chicken Pozole recipe doesn’t require anything more than Jennifer’s, but then his doesn’t have a sing-song quality to it so I guess she trumps him there. In the end, the consumer is lured into believing he/she is better off playing it safe by buying Jennifer’s book.

I have absolutely no idea how great or terrible these recipes are, nor do I care to find out. If any of you guys are curious, I’d be more than happy to post them here since I’ve already got permission to do so. My issues in this case aren’t with execution, they are with concept. I’d like to think that someone intent on making gourmet meals at home (as the title states) doesn’t need cute, rhyming recipe names in order to be enticed to cook—that’s better saved for the down-it-like-castor-oil approach to cooking that’s commonly found in Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee fans. Add to that the subliminal intimation that limited kitchens can’t hack it with other cookbooks and you’ve got the equivalent of an A/C unit being sold to an Eskimo.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Coupe 60 June 30, 2010

did you come up with the entire first paragraph of this blog so that you could use the “Ho-Dee-Ho, Let’s Learn to Blow” line? I think you are brilliant if you did….

I would highly recommend a chapter in your upcoming book be titled as such…

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2 Katie Pizzuto June 30, 2010

While I’d love to take credit for such brilliance, it was the other way around…describe the problem and THEN come up with a ridiculous rhyming chapter name for it….still brilliant if you ask me since it’s the journey and not the destination that matters…I’ll give the book chapter title serious consideration.

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3 Joe June 30, 2010

Love the look of the site, Katie!

I agree. While the cutesy, fun cooking shows appeal to many folks (though the Food Network has long-since jumped the shark, the ratings are still good for cable), what resonates with me is the blood, the sweat, and the shit-storm that is cooking found in books like “Kitchen Confidential” and “Heat”; guys and gals with real “cojones” (proud of me?) who are busting their butts to push the plates out of the kitchen, each one as perfect as the last. The mechanical efficiency and repetition. The ability to not only make one delicious plate of food, but 200 delicious plates of food.

Away with the cutesy! Give me finger condoms balloned with blood from a sharp knife, sweat-seasoned pasta water, swollen, pink, burnt hands, and incredible food.

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4 Katie Pizzuto June 30, 2010

“Give me finger condoms ballooned with blood from a sharp knife, sweat-seasoned pasta water, swollen, pink, burnt hands, and incredible food.”

You’ve obviously seen me at work, then 🙂
(and yes, thank you for spelling your Spanish properly!!)

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5 Joe July 2, 2010

if that’s how you operate, then I need to see it in action. Though, I’m sure the last thing you’d want is some a-hole observing that madness!

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6 Katie Pizzuto July 7, 2010

Ah, then, you’ve met my friends as well, LOL 🙂 Dude I’ve got more burn and cut scars on my hands and arms than I can count.

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7 John June 30, 2010

Based on your description, I think the book would’ve been better served if it catered to college students in tiny dorm rooms. We’ve all tried “gourmet” cooking with a hot plate, a microwave, and a toaster oven. I don’t really get her angle.

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8 Katie Pizzuto June 30, 2010

Actually, you’re kinda right….it would be better geared towards college students, except for the fact that I doubt even most of THEM wanna serve something as inane as “Make No Mistake Coffee Cake”….they’re probably thinking more along the lines of “Beer Funnel/Cakes”.

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9 Linsey June 30, 2010

I dunno – it just seems years behind in presentation, unless I am a 15 year old girl I really cant be bothered with silly food titles.

Mind you saying that – I still have my ‘learn to cook’ book from when I was 9 and still use it occasionally.

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10 Katie Pizzuto June 30, 2010

“Years behind in presentation” is on the money, and yet here it is…brand new…just published. I want to know what the hell the literary agent was smoking when they thought this would sell, and how much of it they gave the publisher.

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11 Linsey July 2, 2010

are there any non-patronising books aimed directly at teenagers, who dont have the best skills in the world, but who would like to cook some basics. There arent here – any teenage ones are all politically correct always cover the healthy points a day rules … and unfortunately that doesnt always encourage a young person to cook.

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12 Katie Pizzuto July 7, 2010

Good question, but I have no answer. I’m actually going to the stores this week to get a cookbook for my 4YO niece so I’ll let you know what I see.

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13 Linsey July 7, 2010

Maybe you should write one!

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14 Connie July 3, 2010

A food processor would be an exotic appliance in my kitchen. I like to eat the foods prepared by those chefs and one of these days…

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15 Katie Pizzuto July 7, 2010

You mind me asking why, Connie? Is it a matter of storage space (because they’re made pretty small these days, if needed) or a financial issue or you just don’t care to have one, or what? I didn’t see that as an exotic appliance any more…

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