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Monday, November 1, 2010

Let's Eat! by Denise Burroughs

 Let's Eat!
by Denise Burroughs
synopsis from Pump Up Your Book Tours:
Denise Burroughs combines her rich Italian heritage with years of southern tradition in Let’s Eat!, her debut cookbook.  Her love for cooking shines through in this comprehensive book, suitable for all levels of cooking experience.  Let’s Eat! provides readers with simple, inexpensive dishes.  Recipes range from “Potato Flake Chicken” to “Chocolate Italian Cookies.”
Her strong Italian background shines through in many recipes, combining her love of tradition and her passion for rich flavors.
Burroughs’ unique dishes have been cultivated through years of experience, filling the hearts and stomachs of her friends and family.  She writes: “Enjoy what you do! Your kitchen is your way of self expression and the heart of your home.”
In Let’s Eat!, Burroughs goes on to share cherished childhood memories of her family cooking authentic Italian meals.  Burroughs recalls: ” Back when my great grandmother used to make pizza they called it ‘Tomato Pie’. It was not like pizza we get today.  It was square and had sauce, oregano, and grated cheese on top.”
Burroughs includes helpful cooking tips for first-timers and some useful veteran secrets.  She takes great pride in her recipes and is excited to share them for the very first time.  She is confident these recipes will satisfy your family and friends.

~  ~  ~  ~ 

I'm fairly indifferent on this one.  It's not a "bad" cookbook, necessarily -- the recipes, though nothing very original, are good basics and starters for people who want to know how to make pretty common recipes (Eggplant Parmesan, Mac and Cheese, stuffed potato skins, etc), but have maybe never tried to before.  These are the quick types of recipes that you can get anywhere, and they are straightforward and use some shortcuts, like jarred sauces, etc.  I'm not opposed to that in itself (it is how most of us cook on the day to day), I do think you have to be clear about what type of book you're pushing.  Is it semi-homemade ala Sandra Lee, or is it from scratch?  I didn't realize when I picked it up that it wasn't from scratch, so if you don't know that going in, it may irritate you.  (Or, if you already know how to dump a jarred sauce on breaded fried eggplant, you may find this pointless.  Again, it's just a matter of how you cook at home.)  There are a lot of basic "entry-level" recipes (<-- I amused myself with that one), as well as some more intricate recipes for the more adventurous cook.  Looked at this way, the book can be used progressionally, building your skills over time.  It's also a nice basic reference on recipes you want to be able to throw together quickly.

Setting the recipes aside, though, I was not even a little bit pleased with the design of the book.  There is no table of contents, which immediately means I'm setting that cookbook back on the shelf.  If I can't open it up and see a good-sized list of the food I'm going to be making, I don't want it.  As I flipped through the book, I realized part of why there is no TOC -- the book's organization is a mess.  Or, I guess there just isn't one; there's no scheme to it, no rhyme or reason.  There are no real "sections" that you typically look for in a cookbook.  There is no meat section or desert section, as one would come to expect.  Nor are the recipes set up in "meal" order, a try entree with this side with this dessert type of thing.  Recipes are somewhat set out like with like, but not in any type of progression, and there are no dividing pages to let me know I'm moving on from Poultry into Pasta, etc.

I was also very disappointed at the lack of pictures in the book.  We eat with our eyes first, and you may look at a recipe and think 'eh' but look at the glossy delicious photo of that same recipe and feel the need to make it, asap.  This was a lost opportunity on the part of the book's designers -- whenever there was a picture, the food looked absolutely delicious, but they were so few and far between that the overall impression was blah.

There are some recipes I intend to try (when I'm not sick, as I don't think my family wants food cooked by Typhoid Misty...), and when I do I will update you.  For now, I would say pick this up only if you are a basic cook who needs a good variety reference without complication, or if it's at your local library and you want to give it a browse.

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