Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cookbook Review: Jamie's Food Revolution

I've never cooked from one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, but I did get a kick out of his Food Network show a couple years ago. Anyone who can take the intimidation out of cooking gets a pat on the back from me. To see an everyday Joe puttering around in his garden in torn jeans, shaking up salad dressings in jam jars (my favorite method), and serving delicious food without a lot of fuss about napkins and fine silver... I hope his viewers really do believe that anyone can cook.

This book is so convincing. Anyone really CAN cook.

Even if you've never cooked before, or have but hate it, this book is for you. The photos of regular folks in their kitchens, proudly showing off the dishes they made, might just convince the most reluctant cook that making dinner - from scratch, with fresh ingredients - is not such an impossible feat.

Jamie makes an interesting proposal to readers learning how to cook: Learn at least one recipe from each of the 14 chapters, which cover everything from "Quick Pasta" to "Twenty-Minute Meals" and "Comforting Stews." By attempting something from each chapter, a kitchen newbie will be able to cook a great meal in any season, whether it's a simple family dinner or a backyard party.

The chapter on salads is particularly clever. He has a double-page spread called "The Philosophy of a Great Salad, Pick-and-Mix Style" with a table of full-color photographs that allows a cook to pick an ingredient from each row and create a satisfying salad. I really appreciated this page. Making a great salad on the fly was not an easy skill for me to develop, and I certainly wouldn't claim to have 'mastered' this. With the range of choices he provides, it would be simple for a salad novice to get out of the rut of making the same salad repeatedly, or, even worse, deciding that salad is boring and bland and not worth eating at all.

Same goes for Jamie's "Delish Veggies" chapter. These vegetable recipes are very simple, and he shows how cooking veggies correctly (most importantly, without reducing them to mush) and pairing them with the right finishing flavors might make veggie-phobes enjoy eating more than just potatoes.

This book is packed with gorgeous food photography, including step-by-step photos of recipes. The recipe selection is broad, simple, and very accessible. There really isn't anything to dislike in this book. My only caveat is that I 'revolted' years ago so I suspect I may be more interested in Jamie's previous cookbooks. I'll have to check these out. Browsing through Amazon leads me to think they may also be filled with incredible photos of food.

I adore Jamie's call for a revolution in how we eat. We should make our food, with actual fruits and vegetables, and then sit down to eat it with friends and family. Watch an episode of his show on Hulu. And join the revolution!

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