November 2009

M.F.K. Fisher, "Consider The Oyster"

I first have to admit that I am 100% not the target audience for this book.  In fact, I would never have picked it up, except that it came in my gigantic doorstop sized collection of books by M.F.K. Fisher (The Art of Eating, which collects Serve It Forth, Consider The Oyster, How To Cook A Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets).  It is, as you may have guessed, an entire book about oysters.

The book is short (only about 60 pages in my edition), and about half recipes, and half discussion of oysters.  The recipes are of necessity limited in scope and number.  After all, there is only so much that you can do with an oyster.  You can bake it, boil it, batter and fry it, turn it into soup, and make stuffing with it.  And of course you can open and eat it raw, which is the course that Fisher advocates.

Amelia Simmons, "American Cookery"

I recently learned about the Feeding America project, which collects old cookbooks and makes them available online.  Sort of a Project Gutenberg for old cookbooks.  I have been reading through their collection, and absolutely loving what I find.

The introduction to American Cookery calls it "in its own way, a second Declaration of Independence," and "the first [cookbook] written for Americans, by Americans."  It tackles the peculiar and unfamiliar foods found in the New World, like corn, turkey, potatoes, and more.

Take Control of Thanksgiving Joe Kissell


Joe Kissell
Take Control of Thanksgiving
TidBits Publishing

I'm a fan of TidBit's Publishing Take Control series of ebooks that make technology understandable and practical. I've been impressed with this affordable ($10.00, with free updates for new versions) series of .pdf ebooks (you can print them, or buy a printed version, if you'd rather) right from the start. In Take Control of Thanksgiving, Joe Kissell, an able and adept technical writer about all things Macintosh, and a long-devoted foodie, turned his geekly technical writing skills to creating Thanksgiving dinner back in 2007.

This is an updated Take Control of Thanksgiving. Kissell outlines, in simple understandable terms exactly what to do in terms of planning a menu, organizing your shopping list, and figuring out a cooking and prep schedule for a typical Thanksgiving dinner (roasted turkey, with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie) with a number of alternates for dishes, and cooking styles, and the idiosyncrasies of guests.

Learning How To Cook: My Alton Brown Failures

Recently New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik talked about the gulf between a recipe in a cookbook, and successfully being able to make the item at hand.  I was so relieved to see someone talking about this, because it is a problem that I suffer from frequently.  And people who are good at cooking never understand!  "Just follow the recipe," they say, not realizing that there is a huge volume of dark matter involved.  Information that isn't in the recipe, but affects its contents.

The Vegetarian Family Cookbook

Vegetarian cooking isn’t just for vegetarians. It’s for those who are health conscious, environmentally aware, and those who want to lose weight, as well. Many meat eaters are reducing their meat intakes to create a smaller carbon footprint, and as more and more school children and their parents demand vegetarian options at the cafeteria, vegetarianism is taking the nation by storm.

Of course, it’s not a new concept in other areas. Many countries do not eat meat—or very little of it—with diets heavily based in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Indeed, these countries tend to have lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other health risks as well. Of course, there’s also the fact that meat simply costs a lot of money. There are plenty of good reasons to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.