Friday, November 21, 2008

Cookbooks on My Radar; Frivolity Scale 2008

As I continue to develop my interest in all things foodie, and figure out which genres, bloggers and events pique my interest, I have also developed a rather long list of cookbook wants.

image courtesy of

The most recent cookbook want I have indulged in is Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites that Delight Before the Meal Begins. Co-authored by Rick Tramonto and Mary Goodbody, also responsible for Osteria, Fantastico and Tru (from the Chicago restaurant), this book gets rave reviews. Thomas Keller, Mario Batali and Jean-Georges Vongerichten all comment favorably, and 12:19 readers at give it 5 stars. This book is about a 4 out 5 in terms of frivolity, for me. I plan to use this immediately to make fall amuse-bouches for my mom's Thanksgiving guests this coming Thursday and even paid the ridiculous 24 hour ship fee so I can plan ahead at the last minute. (*wink*) However, I may then use it only a couple times a year.

Highest on my list in terms of both wants and frivolous uselessness is The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.

image courtesy of

Created by Heston Blumenthal, chef and owner of the much heralded Fat Duck Michelin three-starred restaurant in Berkshire. Apparently, this book is part biography, part technique and part recipes. It is supposedly massive, and really not intended for practical use. A collector's item. I justify my deep need for this useless piece of publishing via the fact that I so rarely cook, why would I need a practical cookbook? Still, people need things and I need this book. Ruhlman speculates about finding the right person with the right voice to cook this book at home. Were I to ever consider such an undertaking, I would certainly start smaller, like with The Joy of Cooking Cookbook, which I actually cooked from when I was about 12.

The dimensions measure 16.6 x 12.8 x 3.2 inches, and it weighs just under 12 pounds. *laughs maniacally*

I find the images...

and illustrations...

both images courtesy of my favorite blog,

to be tantalizingly irresistible.

7 out of 5 on the frivolity scale.

Positioned for a tie on my want list are The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, natch, and A Day at elBulli by elBulli creative genius Ferran Adria. Neither has practical application.

image courtesy of

The French Laundry Cookbook is supposed to be incredibly complicated in the sense that each recipe contains several recipes within it. reports that this is his culinary manifesto, co-written by my favorite food writer, Michael Ruhlman. My favorite Keller quote from the book I have yet to read, "the great challenge [of cooking] is... to derive deep satisfaction from the mundane." Indeed. As is the point of fine dining, most food blogging, food writing, and so on and so forth.

Below is a pic from the blog, French Laundry at Home. Click the link to see the great complexity and attention to detail Carol puts into executing this dish in her home kitchen. 5 out of 5 on the frivolity scale.

Rounding out books high on the frivolity scale is A Day at elBulli.

This is not a cookbook at all, but rather a tome exploring/recording/chronicling one day at Ferran Adria's renowned kitchen/lab/restaurant in Spain, with customers reserving 6 months in advance to be his guinea pigs.

courtesy of menu pages

Above is the Margarita Frappe, and below is the now infamous spherical olive, as featured by Fabio this week on Top Chef, which originated at elBulli. 5 out of 5.

image courtesy of this awesome and unidentifiable internet post

The last book on my want list is Chez Panisse Vegetables. This is the only one with a low score on the frivolity scale. I would actually use this, and often, as I have recently become interested in mending my carnivorous ways, spending less on eating out and hence mounting a fat screen TV in my kitchen to keep me company.

courtesy of the Business Heroes blog

What does one really need to say, editorially, about Chez Panisse vegetables? Alice Waters, unquestionably the creator of California Cuisine via the eponymous Berkeley restaurant, has several Chez Panisse cookbooks in print. I want this one and would actually use it to cook as opposed to simply read and stroke softly. 1 out of 5 on the frivolity scale.


t said...

Being the proud owner of far too many cookbooks, some practical, most frivolous, here is my two cents. Chez Panisse Vegetables is the cookbook I use the most. Seriously, I go to it all the time. It covers every vegetable, every season and every level of difficulty. No real food lover should be without it. F Julia Child. Not really, we heart her but ask Santa for this cookbook.

Food, she thought. said...

T: I am asking for all of them and letting the gifter do the choosing!

Anonymous said...

I confess that I am huge fan of Ferran Adria and have been fortunate enough to dine at his restaurant in Spain. Gastronomically, Organically delicious. So when I discovered the novel approach this book takes in presenting the genius of Adria, I bought it and ripped into with relish. It took me straight back to my meal at the restaurant and I flipped the pages in a catatonic state. If you want to learn from the master, follow the master in his kitchen.

Humbert Humbert

Aaron said...

I like your reviews. Great resource for cookbooks that have been on my radar too (as well as on every foodie's I'd imagine)

Food, she thought. said...

I want them all!