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Most of the work I do for the Globe these days is cookbook reviews, but every once in a while I’ll take on another kind of assignment.

At the end of the summer, I was in Manhattan with my son, who was attending fencing camp in midtown.  I tooled around town on a Citibike (exhilarating, sometimes terrifying), re-visited a lot of my old food haunts, and hung around in Chinatown quite a bit.

While bopping around Canal Street, I got to re-connect with an old friend, Pearl River Mart.  If you lived in Manhattan in the 80’s and 90’s in a boho tax bracket, Pearl River was a life-saver.  You could get one-of-a-kind Christmas and birthday gifts for practically nothing,not to mention staples like cotton T-shirts, bamboo everything, and china galore.

Since those happy, thrifty days, Pearl River’s gone a bit more upscale, like everything in the city.  It still feels like a treasure box, though, and it’s worth a visit if you’re in town.

If you look carefully at the attached 15-year-old picture, you can see an assortment of paper lanterns from Pearl River – a steal for like $1 at the time.

Click here to read today’s story about Pearl River in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

The authors of Kitchen & Co. are British bloggers billing themselves as “French & Grace” (that’s Rosie French and Ellie Grace).  They’ve got a beautiful vision of the good life that’s reminiscent of Canal House Cooking on our side of the pond.

The recipes are freewheeling, colorful, and full of global borrowings.  Headnotes are whimsical and evocative: A dessert for a rosy-shadowed evening, A garden lunch for two, Teatime and the leaves are falling. Execution-wise? They’re sometimes uneven.  But it does make a charming gift.

Click here to read today’s review of Kitchen & Co.in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

Can Fuchsia Dunlop do it again?

Land of Plenty and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook got us used to a certain level of well-glossed, well-described, more-authentic-than-average style of regional Chinese cookbook.

Every Grain of Rice isn’t a regional cookbook.  It’s an 200+-recipe overview of everyday Chinese cooking, bidding for a place on the weeknight rotation.  Does it succeed?

Click here to read today’s review of Every Grain of Rice  in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

Your first glance at the cover of this book is likely to give you one of two mistaken impressions:  1) it is a beginner cookbook for the starting-from-zero kitchen initiate, or 2) it’s everything you’ll ever need to know about egg cookery.

Neither is true.  It’s a very stylish, freewheeling, erratic book from a British bakery in Paris (the bakery book is its own whole genre these days), and it will fit neither your preconceptions about British food nor your preconceptions about Parisian food.

Click here to read today’s review of How to Boil an Egg  in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

Maybe every year or so, a book that’s genuinely good for beginners pops up.  I’m always on the lookout for them, remembering my own inglorious initiation as a cook with my roommate’s copy of 365 Ways to Cook Pasta.  (Things got better once I discovered The Silver Palate Cookbook.)

Anyways, the best I could come up with last year, if memory serves, was a really good baking book, The Fearless Baker (here’s the review).

But along comes Keys to the Kitchen, and it’s really quite good.  I’m not really sure that people will sit and read through the equipment section to make sure they have the right combination of pots and pans, although I certainly would have.  But the recipes are flavorful, well-constructed, reliable, and make none of the compromises many “easy” recipes make in the interests of a shorter ingredient list or not scaring people.  Don’t be nervous if the recipe looks a little long, folks! It’s just good explanation, and you’ll be glad it was there when you sit down to your perfectly executed dinner.

Click here to read today’s review of Keys to the Kitchen  in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

Every time a Nigella book comes out,  women food writers have to do a self-inspection for jealousy and Schadenfreude. Nigella’s success comes from a number of sources – a privileged background, a robust work ethic, a wealthy husband, the willingness to put on what she calls her “circus act” of buxom domesticity, an aptitude for luscious prose stylings that go with the circus act, and yes, genuinely good taste in food.

Who are we to say that success is not deserved?  But when a book like Nigellissima comes out, it’s hard not to carp.  Sure, the food is quick, basically tasty, and capably serves 2.   But with a little care, it could be so much better – and the rest of us would have no cause to nitpick.

Click here to read  today’s review of Nigellissima  in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

“Food creative”.

That’s the phrase I first learned from this book, as in “London fashion publicist turned Paris-based food creative,”  which is how Rachel Khoo describes herself.

For a day or two, I walked around thinking to myself, “That’s what I am!  a food creative!”  In other words:  High job satisfaction, low hourly wage.

As for the book, an offering in the category I dub “Easy French,” it’s adorable.  It brims with chic.  Does it cook well?  Basically, yes.   You have to read a little in between the lines, the portions are small, and so is the type.  But overall, it’s a very appealing package.

Click here to read today’s review of The Little Paris Kitchen  in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

 

Need a cookbook review fix?

I’ve just completed a major overhaul of the review page, eliminating all the broken or expired links and loading all the stories as site-hosted PDFs.  You can now seamlessly read all my cookbook reviews dating back to 2002 (and click through the “buy” links to purchase the cookbooks themselves on Amazon).

If you run across a broken link I’ve missed, kindly contact me so I can fix it.

Yes! I’m dying to read some cookbook reviews!  Take me away!

 

I’m a huge fan of Southern cookbooks and I like Nathalie Dupree, so I greeted this publication with excitement.

In the testing, the book turned out not to be quite what I thought (although there is certainly much to love in it).  I suspect the inhouse editing was not all it could have been.  Still, I salute the authors for an extraordinary effort.

Click here to read today’s review of Mastering the Art of Southern Coooking in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

In the meantime, I have discovered a way of accessing the published text for almost all of my old reviews, through the public library!  These archival documents may not be pretty, but I can at last provide readable links for all my reviews except a couple of the very oldest.  Excited to revisit favorite old  cookbooks like Lydie Marshall’s Soup of the Day and Deh-Ta Hsiung/Nina Simonds’ The Food of China!  It’s all on the review page.

Over the next few weeks I hope to gradually update links to all my reviews and make them more accessible to all.

One of the things a cookbook reviewer likes best in all the world is reliability: recipes that work exactly as they are written, with no tweaks, alterations, or fudges.   That’s what I’ve always liked about Cook’s Illustrated magazine and the America’s Test Kitchen team.  So I sprang at the chance to review the latest offering out of Brookline.

True to expectations, the recipes worked.  And I loved the essays that start out each chapter and the explanations following each recipe.   It’s like Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, only a bit more accessible, and with lots of things you can actually make.  Highly recommended.

Click here to read today’s review of The Science of Good Cooking in the Boston Globe.

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