Book Club Tuesday: A Cookbook Roundup of Sorts

Happy New Year everyone! Hope your first steps into 2017 have been the ones that will set the tone for your coming year. I feel like, setting the tone, is becoming a major theme with me. With cooking (definitely!), parenting, in my marriage, friendships (both new & old), my health and wellness goals — as you can see, this is happening in most of the major areas in my life. In other news, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything here but I felt like I needed a break to recharge and regroup.

2016 set the tone for what I do and don’t want 2017 to be — I want to focus on great reviews and enjoy good health. But this will take some work and planning.

Apartment Therapy posted a pic to their IG that had me in giggles — check it here. For me, 2016 wasn’t bad because of celebrity deaths, but it seemed like the world was a less friendly and forgiving place. I felt less friendly. I felt less forgiving. 2016 had its ups too — in the fall I took a 40 day yoga/meditation/diet challenge that really started me thinking about my own health and wellness goals. In my new mom group one thing that keeps coming up is the lack of time parents spend on self care. It’s hard not to give 100% of yourself especially when it’s to a tiny, defenseless creature that depends on you 100% of the time. A 1:1 trade seems only fair right? Wrong. One of the requirements of the challenge was to practice yoga 6 days a week. This meant that I had to rely on my husband and daughter to support this and they really pulled together so that I could prioritize myself. At first I felt guilty — I’m a SAHM and I felt like I wasn’t doing “my job” but then I realized that the only way to give the best of myself was to nurture myself. So as it turned out last year wasn’t totally bad for me. “Where is the cookbook roundup??” you ask — well, it’s coming. I promise.

I’m really passionate about cooking and anything culinary-related. When I started Shipshape Eatworthy I wanted to share all of the cookbooks that I loved cooking from so I used my own cookbooks to write those reviews. Then in the middle of 2016 I had even written a few reviews of cookbooks (A Modern Way to Cook, Forest Feast Gatherings, and The Short Stack Cookbook) that I gained advanced access to through NetGalley*. Looking forward into 2017 here at S/E I’m really excited about some new reviews that are upcoming — I’ll keep them under wraps until they happen as each review is contingent upon getting advanced copies of some very highly anticipated new cookbooks. (The more time I spend on the internet, the more I learn not to get my hopes up. Last year I was approached by a company to give a recipe and photos to a  series they were going to run — over 6 months later they still haven’t used it. Patience is a virtue but sometimes it feels like I’m waiting in vain.)

Setting the Tone can be as easy as picking up a cookbook (or magazine!)– 2016 was full of some really wonderful ones!

One thing that still nags at me is whether people read reviews here and then decide to buy/not buy a particular cookbook. I worry that my own biases may give readers the wrong impression about any given book. I have been criticized (IRL) that my reviews are way too positive** This is probably true because I would never choose to cook from a cookbook that I only had lukewarm feelings about. Wasting time, money, and food is not an option. Some of my most favourite cookbooks of 2016 are — Cut the SugarGreen Kitchen Smoothies, A Year in My Real Food Kitchen, Love & Lemons, A Modern Way to Cook, and The Short Stack Cookbook. All of these books I purchased when they were released and were in constant rotation in my kitchen. For the last two on that list, I put my money where my review was and bought those ones.

I also really loved Gwyneth Paltrow’s newest cookbook, It’s All Easy, but it took me picking it up at my local library and trying the recipes for me to buy it. TBH it’s total sweater porn and if I had $10,000 I would own ALL THE SWEATERS but the recipes are good and, well, easy. A bonus if you need tasty meals on the table in a jiffy. I can see that GP may be grooming herself to be the next Martha and that’s okay. Every niche needs to be occupied. Right? I was going to review this book but after reading Amelia Morris’ essay on it (here), I thought better of it because her essay was really thought provoking and probably one of the most interesting reviews I’ve read in a long while.

If you’re looking for less commitment then I suggest picking up a food-related magazine. Great for inspiration and seasonal cooking ideas, you can never really go wrong with a great magazine. Some of my favs are Chickpea, Ricardo Magazine, Sweet Paul Magazine, Olive, Sift, Bake From Scratch, and Go Gluten Free Magazine (although I don’t think that this one is on print anymore!)

Setting the Tone can mean being inspired by what other people/home cooks are doing in the kicthen (because life is happening to them too and they still manage to get excited about food)

Speaking of Amelia Morris that reminds me that I’d like to suggest a different kind of food-related reading. Over the past five years or so it seems like another type of book is emerging — a memoir-cookbook hybrid. Books written by well-known food bloggers that chronicle their lives. Each chapter ends with a related recipe. These books are highly personal and at times a bit uncomfortable to read (when Molly’s father passed away in A Homemade Life I was uncomfortably saddened — uncomfortable because I was upset at some real life events in someone else’s life. A stranger’s life. It feels odd to know someone, their history, and their inner thoughts and not really know them.)

These types of books are quickly becoming my favourite type of book to read. It all started (for me) with Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life and Delancey. Then I picked up Matthew Amster-Burton‘s Hungry Monkey at the library (about the trials and tribulations of feeding his daughter — got a great recipe for yeasted waffles out of it too!!) This book came along at an opportune time when I was gearing up to start my baby on solid foods and it was terrifying me (so. much. pressure.). His humor and honesty really helped me to keep perspective on the whole situation. The library was good to me in 2016 because I also found Amelia Morris’ book Bon Appetempt there too. I loved her book so much that I bought my own copy shortly after returning the library copy. Finally, I’ve spent December savoring Luisa Weiss‘ book My Berlin Kitchen. I think what I most enjoy about these books is how they relate the human condition to food. To understand how other people’s kitchens work and how they organize their family meals is completely fascinating to me. If you’re not looking to pick up a book I suggest reading the blogs of any of the previously mentioned authors or trying Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons. She writes the most beautiful things about her life, family, and food.

Set the Tone with those first recipes you make in 2017 — don’t be too chuffed if it doesn’t work out.

Trying new techniques in the kitchen is a thing with me. I have no formal training so that means there’s lots of room for error and improvisation. Tonight I decided that the inaugural recipe for 2017 would be Tara O’Brady’s marshmallow recipe from her recent Globe & Mail column. Since we’re vegetarians who don’t eat gelatin I thought I’d try the recipe, only substituting agar flakes for gelatin. Tara was very kind and helpful through her IG by answering my questions regarding vegan options for this recipe. So I  gave it a try and that tray of Franken-fluff is sitting, chillin’, in my freezer. It tasted like the recipe intended but when I tried whipping the mixture on high it wouldn’t whip. So I panicked and added some cream of tartar (not sure why, seemed like a thing to do) and some aquafaba. It still didn’t whip up the way I think it should have. The mixture on the whole seems to be stuck somewhere between Marshmallow Fluff and an actual marshmallow. When I was telling my husband about the the marshmallow experiment, I felt like Ralphie after he relayed the word he uttered — “Only I didn’t say Fudge…” I feel like “Only I didn’t make marshmallow, just a fu&king mess.” I’ll sleep on it (not literally) and let you know tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised but whatever happens I do have a good feeling about food this year. So I woke up this morning to a big, gross mess. After scooping some out of the pan to taste (it never really gelled properly) I found that the agar flakes never dissolved (why it didn’t gel). My husband, who apparently ate clown for breakfast, asked “Hey! It looks like a snowman threw up in the compost bin!” Har har. Never one to shy away from a second attempt, I tried it again but this time whipping the aquafaba and then folding it into the sugar-agar solution. What resulted was a very fine Whipped Marshmallow. I’ll tap out here and leave vegan marshmallow-making to the professionals.

Many, many thanks for visiting this space to see what I have going on. Words can’t convey how happy it makes me. Wishing you all the best in 2017.

*(Although, my use of this service is going to be ending because I realized that after a certain amount of days the publishers have set these advanced ecopies to expire, meaning that after putting time and effort into writing a thoughtful review I didn’t even get to enjoy a free ecopy of a cookbook.)

**And from FBC’s recent comment on one of my IG posts, not Canadian enough! But, alas, you can’t be all things to all people. Here you’ll find reviews that are mainly focused on plant-based diets (like Fresh) or family-centered cookbooks (like How to Feed A Family !) although sometimes I choose cookbooks outside of this oeuvre (Mamushka).

2 thoughts on “Book Club Tuesday: A Cookbook Roundup of Sorts

  1. You know I have the /same/ concern. That all my reviews are too positive (except maybe one or two). But I’m with you: I have to feel good enough about a cookbook to cook from it in the first place.


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