This is a review of a series of books, actually. They are books I have prominently displayed on a shelf, and they are among the very few books in my house that get pulled out and consulted frequently. I also write in them: notes, dates, and adjustments. I’m talking, of course, about the cookbooks I use most often, Alton Brown’s I’m Just here for the Food, and I’m Just here for More Food.
This is a bit of a departure for me, as I have gone away from using many cookbooks. From a bookshelf full of nearly a hundred books, I’m down to between 6-7 cookbooks (not counting the heirlooms, which are in need of preservation). And of those, I use More Food most often, followed by my venerable Fannie Farmer, and the Meta Given’s Encyclopedia. But Alton Brown’s books are my favorites, because they appeal strongly to my geeky side. That, and his sense of humor gets me, any guy that can write this “As long as there isn’t fur growing on anything, and nothing is oozing (the only food that’s allowed to ooze is cheese), you’re good to go.” Well, that cracks me up.
But more than the funny asides, which make me happy, the science-based approach to cooking pleases that part of me that wants to know ‘why?’ These books deliver that in a big way. If you ever wanted to know what leavening is, how it works, and why, this is a good place to start. Or why we sear a roast. Or…
I can sit and read these books like novels. I would have adored having them as a girl, when I was learning to cook. I was tickled pink to get them as a grown woman. If you’re teaching a bright young child to cook, I highly recommend them. Or simply if you want to polish up your cooking skills, yourself. I see they are now available in ebook, but the hardbacks are nice, as they are printed with note-taking spaces, and I have made notes many times, as I altered recipes to family tastes, or tried new things.
Like the Fruitbowl Bread I made a while back.
Working off the Banana Bread recipe in More Food, I made a note that I had added 2 c of apples, peeled and chopped, 1 tsp of ground ginger, and instead of walnuts, I added 1 c of walnut meal. I also used vanilla, rather than almond extract. Unlike Alton’s recipe, mine made two loaves, perhaps because of all the apples. In this application, I knew I was safe adding the relatively ‘wet’ ingredient of the apples, as this bread is intended to be moist and dense. It’s in yeast loaves you have to be careful about the addition of too much ‘wet’ that can leave soggy spots in baking. In this, they were wonderful.