Make the Bread, Buy the Butterby Jennifer Reese (of Tipsy Baker), 2011
This is the book I have been waiting for my. Whole. Life.
I know my previous two book reviews were about all the terrible food out there any why you should never ever ever eat any of those processed nightmares the Big Food companies call food. It was a little scary, and honestly, not the tone I wanted to set so early on in my blog. So I apologize for that bit of “scared straight” action. (But they really are good books. You should definitely read them). Anyway.
I love love love cookbooks, but I have about half a gazillion, most of which I added to my Amazon wishlist at some point, thinking, “Hey, I should check this one out from the library,” or “This one has lots of pretty pictures!” only to receive one as a birthday or Christmas gift. Which is not a bad thing, believe me. But then since I don’t have to give it back/risk a 25-cent fine, I think, “Oh, I’ll read it later…”
Luckily, I got this book from the library and
read devoured it. I seriously couldn’t stop reading a cookbook. I read it on the train to and from work. I read it on the elliptical machine. I read it before bed. What is this, Fifty Shades of Bread?
But it’s not just a cookbook. It doesn’t tell you how to make a sirloin with a demi-glace and an accoutrement of haricot verts. It’s the most unpretentious, non-cookbook cookbook I’ve ever read. And I loved it. I loved it so much I bought it before I even returned the library copy, before I’d even tried to make one thing from it.
So here’s the gist: Jennifer, in a period of (fortunate) unemployment, decided that in order to “save money,” she would try making from scratch all these foods we take for granted and pay ridiculous premiums on. Which are worth the extra bucks, which aren’t? Which cost more but taste so much better homemade? And which store-bought favorites are so loaded with scary ingredients that we damned well better make them ourselves? In a delightfully hilarious way, Jennifer answers these questions (I was laughing so hard on the train one morning, I probably woke up half the car) and more. She inspires you to get back to the basics. And not the Ina Garten basics, the before-there-were-supermarkets basics. For all the conveniences of today, sometimes it’s nice to get back in the kitchen and do things the real way.
And in her little “renaissance woman” experiment, well, she changed the way she lives. Just like I am trying to do with myself, why I started this blog. So I feel a sense of kindred spirits here (sorry to get all metaphysical on you).
So here’s the thing: you could find all these recipes on the internet for free, no problem. And unlike most recipes, they’d probably be (almost) exactly the same on every site, since they are the basics. But here they all are, 120 of ’em, in one book, easy for me to refer to again and again. I will probably never make my own Camembert, and some of the recipes I already know (such as guacamole and pizza dough). But if I feel adventurous enough to try my hand at homemade butter or sauerkraut, I know where to turn! And when it comes to bread, yogurt, tortillas — I’m already committed to making my own and this is a great resource to have.
This is the kind of book I wish I’d gotten to learn from as a kid, with my mom and grandmothers. This is the kind of book I can imagine using for years to come, to cook with my children and grandchildren (or more likely, nieces and nephews, ha!). This is a book that will endure.