Vegetarianism is becoming an increasingly acceptable choice in the western world, fueled by a desire to consume fresh and healthy. But that said, for the new vegetarian or even the seasoned cook, there comes a time when you stare at the same vegetables in the supermarket and wonder what you are going to do with them.
Here is where a little inspiration comes in handy and just about time for the cookbook entry in the plot. Cookbooks are a special breed of nonfiction books, their hands-on content giving them a fairly good shot at longevity on the bookshelf and popular gift choices. But even within cookbooks, there is a pseudo-hierarchy. First, there is one that you would get should you seek to create dishes that impress, and then there are those you’ll collect to actually flip open and use after a long day.
Jack Bishop’s book belongs to category two, and he’s certainly up to the task. Presently the Executive Editor of Cook’s Illustrated, Bishop is the author of numerous cookbooks like Vegetables Every Day, The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cook Book et al.
Unlike many cookbook authors, Bishop does not pepper his book with anecdotes about what he ate while growing up. Instead, he tries to carve a distinct niche for himself by offering simple, easy to replicate recipes.
Bishop sends you into sections of the supermarket you might have previously ignored and borrows inspiration from various cuisines like Greek, Indian, Thai, Malay etc. A Year is, consequently, a good introduction to many different food cultures for the "green" cook.
The look of the book is semi-spartan; good, clean print with lots of spaces in between, interesting asides about what to watch out for when you are buying things or during preparation and with very few pictures barring the brief center photo feature – a possible sore point for those cooks who like visual reinforcements of the recipes they are trying out.
Bishop writes simply, elegantly, with a sense of humor and a style that conjures up images of a well-stocked plentiful kitchen. A family man who cooks dinner on most of the weeknights (husbands of the world hear!), the book is peppered with anecdotes about his kids. Along the way Bishop gives tips, demystifies processes and ingredients answering questions we didn’t know quite whom to ask, like
This is not the snob’s cookbook. It’s a cookbook to keep handy on your kitchen table after that long day’s work. The flip side is that as many of these recipes are quick fixes or fusion dishes, they lack the multiple layers of subtle flavors that you might get if you followed the unwritten rules of traditional cuisines (simmering, layering spices, etc.). Nevertheless, overall a lovely book to possess, for you’ll be using it more often than you anticipated.
- what makes silken tofu different from other forms of tofu
- how to grill potatoes effectively
- how to cook brown rice without making it sticky and heavy
- what kind of eggs to buy
- what is the difference between kosher and regular salt, and many others.