Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 22, 2010

How NOT to Cook Everything

I would rather not post on such a negative topic. Yet I can’t refrain from making my (very humble) opinion known. I don’t get it. I really, really don’t get it. I’ve seen the man on television. He has a good palate. He understands technique. So why does his cookbook suck? Heck, why does it suck so bad?

And why doesn’t it tell how to cook everything? And when it does give a recipe, why is it wrong? I haven’t been this mad at a cookbook since I tried to use the revised Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook–that one with the gingham cover, reissue after reissue.

The farm manager was making oatmeal cookies the other night. We usually just do what the nice Quaker guy has printed on the lid of his rolled oats container, and everything is hunky-dory. But I looked in How to Cook Everything, only to see if there was something else one might do, and that heretic was putting milk in the cookie batter.

Huh? Milk? What is that about? I’ve been making oatmeal cookies since I could stand up, and I’ve never done anything remotely like that to an innocent batch of cookies. Nor am I about to start.

And if a cookbook of that volume is going to be published in this country, when one looks in the index under Casserole there should be an entry for Tuna Noodle–even if it’s all gussied up and modernized, or even made with sashimi grade tuna. But there isn’t. And that’s not the only thing I ever went to go make and couldn’t find there.

His pie crust isn’t any good either. And I’m not just saying that to be ugly. If I were new to pie crust, I would be able to follow his directions. But I still wouldn’t be making a GOOD pie crust no matter how closely I hewed to the text.

If a guy can’t be trusted on the basics (and really–tuna noodle casserole, oatmeal cookies and pie crust are about as basic as it gets on this plane of existence), then what’s he really good for? And what about the people on the back cover shilling for his product? I respect Mollie Katzen. I grew up on her cookbooks. Her recipes are good, and they do what they’re supposed to do. Now I feel like I have to reevaluate all those decades of trust and understanding. Why would she say those good things about him, when it’s plain to see they aren’t true?

Yeah, he has one million variations on a few themes of meat and not-meat food. Yeah, he can tell you a little about any of those foods in his book. But the go-to’s in my kitchen are always going to be Escoffier, Rombauer (one of each edition to cover the bases properly) and Madison for the encyclopaediac. And I’ll still be pulling a Sinatra, larding the margins with my own notes and proportions, and doing it my way.



  1. I would add Jaques Pepin to your collection. There is an early book on classical french technique which is supposed to be, well, classic. Even the cheesy stuff he did with his daughter and Julia Child, some real gems.

    • I hear what you’re saying. I do need to put some Jaques in my collection. He has such strengths where he is good.

  2. AND he doesn’t have a Tettrazini recipe. I guess cream sauce casseroles are just a goyim thing and don’t occur to decent folk apparently born and raised in the boroughs of NYC,

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