How do you use cookbooks?
Some have them stacked high on their bedside table, like fiction, others draw on them like Cliff Notes, without getting too involved. Personally, I tend to turn to them for inspiration. Such as when I find myself at a loss with a specific ingredient: when my tomatoes are suddenly all overripe I’ll hit the books to see what people like Alice Waters, Ani Phyo or the guys at Moro do.
Many people think I only have raw or vegan cookbooks on my shelves. Those people are wrong, wrong, wrong. In fact, I love “regular” cookbooks as much as I love sitting next to people eating all the things I can’t. For the record, if we ever go out for a meal together, please don’t skimp on ordering exactly what you want. Don’t assume I’ll suffer because I can’t taste your French toast or your double bacon cheeseburger. I won’t. I don’t. Because what’s more pleasurable than watching people enjoy, truly enjoy their food? (and, believe me, if you felt as nasty as I do after eating that stuff, you wouldn’t miss it either)
But back to cookbooks. I love cookbooks. I love reading about all the ways other people have found to combine ingredients. To me, recipes are like paintings: each artist has their own style and it’s wonderful to not only study and analyze, but also, to the extent that it is possible, try things for myself.
Of course, as the Picky Foodie, it can get a little tricky. With all of my restrictions, it is rare that I can actually eat all that a dish calls for. However, if I’m honest, the thing is, I’m convinced that even if I could eat everything under the sun, I don’t know how good I’d be at actually following recipes.
Whenever I try to follow a recipe, I think back to the time when I made Congo Bars with my grandmother. She was recovering from a broken hip and so we agreed that, because she wasn’t able to stand or move around, I would be the one actually putting the ingredients together. It was easy, she said, all I needed to do was follow the recipe…
Let’s just say, it’s a wonder she’s still speaking to me!
And to be fair, my grandmother’s Congo Bars are, to my mind, proof of the existence of a higher power. I think her magic ingredient, however, has nothing to do with the ingredients though I’m sure she would disagree.
A few weeks ago, Debbie Koenig, a fellow food blogger and mother, announced that her cookbook, Parents Need to Eat Too (isn’t that a great title?) was coming out. I was so excited for her and looked forward to getting my hands on it. Parents Need to Eat Too, is geared towards new parents. It covers everything from slow-cookers (an absolute necessity), to quick dishes you can make during nap time, to lactogenic foods that support breastfeeding and even one-handed jobs (when you can’t put down the baby).
This book is chock-full of information, tips and tricks – how to make grown-up food more baby friendly, time-savers for the busy parent, recipes for kitchen-illiterate partners, foods to help increase and reduce milk production, how much sugar is too much for babies. And did I mention the great slow cooker section?
But then, of course, came the real question: was I going to find anything Picky Foodie friendly?
They say you need to follow a recipe at least once so you know what it’s supposed to taste like before changing anything. And I resolved to do just that. Or at least give it my best shot.
Parents Need to Eat Too is pretty animal product heavy – so those bits were not for me, though many of the recipes do sound delicious. It also relies quite a lot on gluten grains and there’s a lot of dairy involved. However, there is a nice range of pulse-dishes, most of them ethnic-flavoured, though Debbie, with her characteristic sense of humour and candour, admits she’s not aiming for authenticity. I decided to attempt one of those.
In London, I crave curry. In the Middle East, it’s Mjadra. Since arriving in the US, I’ve been wanting chilli. So although I flirted with a good few of the slow cooker recipes like the Potato, Split Pea and Cauliflower Dahl and the Moroccan Red Lentil Stew (have I mentioned the slow cooker?), I settled on the sweet potato and homini chilli.
I tried to follow the recipe. Believe me, I did. And, surprisingly, I succeeded for the most part.
There were cans involved – many more than I’m used to -- but then again, as a Mom, I’ve become more open to making use of these helpful time-savers.
Here’s the bottom line: while I agree that parents might need to eat too, the mark of a good recipe isn’t whether the adults like it. Only if the little person gobbles it up, can a meal be deemed a success.
And Gobble she did.
Which disappeared quite quickly but were ample enough to take the pressure off for at least one, if not two additional meals.
So it was a win-win-win. Or as they say in French, tout le monde a gagne!
Parents Need to Eat Too comes out this week. If you pre-order a copy before the official launch on Tuesday you'll also get the free Digital Starter Kit, which includes extra recipes and other bonuses.
But here’s the good news: I’m giving away a copy! Yes, it’s the Picky Foodie’s very first giveaway!!!!
To enter, please leave a comment telling me how you use recipes, whether you try to follow them to the letter, whether you, like me, find it is somehow against your religion, or whether you are somewhere in between… I’d love to know! A winner will be picked at random, to be announced on March 1st.