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The Level Teaspoon can be found on iTunesStitcher, and Google Play – or find it by searching for “The Level Teaspoon” on any other podcast service you may use!

You can also hear it through your browser at The Level Teaspoon site.


Review titles:


The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen, by Yasmin Khan (Bloomsbury)
Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China, by Fuchsia Dunlop  (W. W. Norton)
Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors, by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)


Episode 3 Noteworthy titles
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes, by Ronni Lundy (Clarkson Potter)
Dandelion & Quince: Exploring the Wide World of Unusual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs, by Michelle McKenzie (Roost Books)
The Book of Lost Recipes: The Best Signature Dishes From Historic Restaurants Rediscovered
by Jaya Saxena (Page Street Publishing)



Episode 3 Recipe Tests
mussels-promo-picGuest: Christina Barber-Just

Christina is an editor at Smith College and a former dining columnist for Hampshire Life magazine in western Massachusetts. She makes a mean martini and has a weakness for kitchen gadgets.

Book tested:  Fresh Fish: A Fearless Guide to Grilling, Shucking, Searing, Poaching, and Roasting Seafood,  by Jennifer Trainer Thompson (Storey Publishing)


cocktail-promo-imageGuest: Sara Barber-Just

Sara is the English department chair at Amherst Regional High School here in western MA and she loves setting the scene before a dinner party with fanciful linens, show-stopping flowers, and cocktails that make you go, Mmmmmmm.

Book tested: The New Cocktail Hour: The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks
by André Darlington and Tenaya Darlington (Running Press)


Episode 3 Music:

Avareh by Mamak Khadem
Bossa d’Automne by Thiaz Itch

Sound effects assembled using material from benboncan, audiorichter, saphe, kiddpark, and inspectorj, all hosted at  Other sources include,, and my own recordings.


The Level Teaspoon’s theme music:

Não me touques, performed by The Bees Knees International Café Orchestra


Hear it all on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play or find it by searching for “The Level Teaspoon” any other podcast service you may use!

level-teaspoon-icon-512-x-512It’s here…!!!  After 15 years of reviewing cookbooks in print and radio (and 1 frantic month learning all about podcasting), may I present to you my weekly all-cookbooks all-the-time podcast, The Level Teaspoon.  You can find it on iTunes,  Stitcher, Google Play and others.

Is it informative?  Is it authoritative?  You’ll have to judge.  But I promise you won’t find a more irreverent cookbook review podcast anywhere.

WARNING: Listening when hungry may make cause you to eat way sooner than you meant to. Show notes follow.


Episode 1 Review titles:


Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia & The Caucasus by Caroline Eden & Eleanor Ford (Kyle Books)
ITSU 20 minute suppers: Eat beautiful with noodles, grains, rice and soups, by Julian Metcalf & Blanche Vaughan (Mitchell Beazley)
All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China, by Carolyn Phillips (10 Speed Press)


Episode 1 Noteworthy titles

Not One Shrine: Two Food Writers Devour Tokyo by Becky Selengut  & Matthew Amster-Burton  (Thunk Books)
The All New Ball Book Of Canning And Preserving: Over 350 of the Best Canned, Jammed, Pickled, and Preserved Recipes (Oxmoor House)
Ice Cream Adventures: More Than 100 Deliciously Different Recipes, by Stef Ferrari (Rodale  Books)



Episode 1 Recipe Test

Guest: Mark Lattanzi works by day at 93.9 WRSI, a popular local radio station here western Massachusetts.  The rest of the time, Mark and his wife Cindy grow, make, and experiment with a ridiculous amount of food, much of which has been enthusiastically eaten by me.

Book tested:  Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, by Meathead Goldwyn (Rux Martin/HMH)


Episode 1 Music:

Little Lily Swing, by Tri-Tachyon
Ille de Roman Olsun, by Wind of Anatolia
Shange Mountain Song, by Chan Wai Fat


The Level Teaspoon‘s theme music:
Não me touques, performed by The Bees Knees International Café Orchestra

Episode 2 Review titles:

The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini, by Cara Mangini (Workman Publishing)

Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes, by Robin Ha (10 Speed Press)

Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love., by Floyd Cardoz (Artisan Books)

Episode 2 Noteworthy titles
Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare, by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla (Tupelo Press)

The 420 Gourmet: The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine by Jeffthe420Chef (Harper Wave)

Ethnic American Cooking: Recipes for Living in a New World, edited by Lucy Long

Episode 2 Recipe Tests

Guest: Cindy Tarail

Cindy describes herself as “a community organization and community relations type of social worker.” She works at Cancer Connection in Northampton, which provides free services to those dealing with cancer and their loved ones, everything from support groups and one to one guidance to integrative therapies and creativity and exercise classes. Cindy and her family “grew raising our own meat, dairy, and vegetables, picking wild blueberries and raking clams, and cooking off the grid…given that I’m a gardener, we always come back to the simplest most wonderful meals based on vegetables and herbs, good olive oil and cheeses, and our own eggs.”

Book tested:  Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook, by Theresa Carle-Sanders (Delacorte  Press)


Guest: Bill Fosher

Bill Fosher is a New Hampshire farmer raising lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and turkey, and avid home cook. He believes in using good, simple ingredients and techniques to produce flavorful meals. Sometimes quick and dirty, sometimes long and laborious, but usually very tasty. Or spectacular failures. Almost never boring. Yeast confounds him.

Book tested: Master of the Grill: Foolproof Recipes, Top-Rated Gadgets, Gear & Ingredients Plus Clever Test Kitchen Tips & Fascinating Food Science, by America’s Test Kitchen


Episode 2 Music:

As the Night Ends, by Laszlo Harsanyi

Gold Rush, by Kevin MacLeod

The Show Must Be Go, by Kevin MacLeod

Latin Rhythm, by Sunsearcher


The Level Teaspoon’s theme music:

Não me touques, performed by The Bees Knees International Café Orchestra

Can I just say? The word “golden” takes the prize for Laziest Word in Recipe Writing.  And I say that as someone who has written “golden” into her own recipes, any number of iniquitous times.

I know, I know, what else are you going to call it?  Without “golden” and its even more indispensable cousin, “golden-brown,” how can we describe the seared skin of the chicken, the crust of the biscuit, the luminous hue of the caramelized onion?  Without Mr. Maillard and his golden footprint, where would we be?  We might as well pack it in and convert to an all-raw diet.

No question, we need our golden food.  But we need a new word – or better,  lots of new words.  There is almost nothing I like less in a recipe than seeing these three words: “fry until golden”.   Sweet Jesus, what is that supposed to mean?!  Never mind that “fry” means all sorts of different things in all sorts of different contexts.  But “golden”!  It could mean anything from a straw-colored roux to a daisy-yellow legal pad to a burnt-amber cork. To sum up, “golden” means “Cook it till it looks appetizing and you want to eat it.  You know what I mean, don’t you?  Good! now I don’t have to explain.”

Almost as bad is, “Fry until golden, about X minutes”.  Firepower is different on every combination of range, burner, and cooking vessel.   Without knowing what kind of golden you’re aiming for, a time estimate is pretty meaningless too.    You might as well just go ahead and scale the Everest of vagueness:  “Cook till done.”

OK, realistically, we’re not going to do away with “golden”.  But let’s face it, the word is inadequate.  How about we just use it as a starting point?  Tell me what kind of gold – burnished gold? dull gold? brand-new-Sacagawea-dollar-gold? bronze? mottled? pale?  Better yet, give me other sensory cues – should I wait till the protein releases from the pan? till the tofu squeaks?  till the onions begin to stick? till the edges of the loaf pull away from the mold?  Give me something to work with – I’m dyin’ here!

Of course, a good cook is a good cook, and even the worst-written recipe is not going to make a good cook produce a bad meal.  Still, why not aim high?  Why not use our gloriously rich language, so diverse in origin, so blessed in synonyms, so accommodating of nuance and simile?  Remember, every time you coin a metaphor, an English teacher earns his wings!

Next time: my thoughts on coarse meal.  As in “pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. ” Duck and cover!

I haven’t had a chance to post it till now, but this story ran last Wednesday on NPR’s Kitchen Window.

It’s mostly about the strength hidden in the deceptive clarity of a beef stock, and only partly about my mania for pho.

Click here to read the story.

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