641 Extreme–The Ultimate Cook Book Roundup

Happy Monday!  Usually I select just three or four books for my "Roundup" posts,  but today I have no less than eight great selections from the cookbook aisle, all of which are variously  so interesting, unusual or  noteworthy that I felt I just Have to share them  all.

Martha Rose Shulman, a cook book author and cooking instructor, who achieved success in those fields without the benefit of any formal culinary education has penned a captivating memoir with recipes of her experience at "Culinary Boot Camp"– a one week program at the famed Culinary Institute of America intended for  home cooks.   The boot camp program seeks to give the hobbyist or home cook a grounding in the basics of classic cooking techniques and theories.

I was struck by the fact that even though, the boot campers are provided with cooking assistants to do much of the heavy grunt work required of  the regular students,  the schedule and pace of the program emphasize, just as the CIA’s regular programs do, the long hours and physically demanding hard work that are inherent to the professional kitchen.   While I did not think much of the included recipes,  I thoroughly enjoyed Shulman’s memoir.    Recommended.






Moving from the serious to the silly, Georgeann Brennan’s  Green Eggs and Ham Cook Book–Recipes Inspired By Dr. Seuss would be a fun book to share with children who are old enough to begin learning their way around the kitchen.    The recipes for strangely named and determinedly exotic looking creations could yield a fun experience for parent and child, though I have to warn you that the title recipe which called for glazing a whole cooked ham with mint jelly, tomatillos and cilantro to make it green (on the outside at least) and serving it with eggs sunny side up, on which the yokes have been covered in guacamole made me queasy.    Recommended.



American Food Writing, edited by Molly O’Neill is a collection of essays and recipes from a number of different writers covering 250 years of American cuisine.    What most caught my eye was the recipe on page 387 for Tunnel of Fudge Cake, the 1966 winner of the Pillsbury Bake Off.   I vividly remember as a child my mother making the rich chocolate Bundt cake that magically developed an inner ring of gooey, almost liquid fudge. Recommended.


The Breath of a Wok by Grace Young and Alan Richardson is a very well-written and detailed book for those seriously interested in acquiring, breaking in and cooking in and maintaining an authentic Chinese Wok.  Several chapters are given over to discussion of the wok itself, selecting and purchasing a wok and breaking in your new wok.    From there the authors go on  to introduce basic wok cooking techniques and finally present an astounding array of recipes.   Recommended.

Food The History of Taste, edited by Paul Freedman is a large, thick over-size history of cuisine offers an in-depth history of human cooking and eating habits across a very broad span of time and place.   This my be too dry and academic for the casual foodie but provides an interesting read if you are up for something a bit more challenging.   Recommended.


Eat This:  1,001 Things To Eat Before You Diet, purports to be a book celebrating "culinary adventures from coast to coast", a guide to the best of both table cloth and mom and pop stand food experiences across the United States.  While some of the establishments mentioned are well known icons, I found myself questioning the quality of the selections overall, at least for those areas I am well familiar with.    While a few listings for Los Angeles area icons technically fulfill the cover’s promise ov coast to coast, the fact is that if you live west of the Missisppi or south of the Mason-Dixon Line and not On the East Coast this book will be of little interest to you.   NOT Recommended.



Companion to the PBS television series, Chef’s Story consists of 27 essays by prominent chef’s about how they got into the cooking business.   It reminded me a bit of Don’t Try This At Home and How I Learned To Cook  (reviewed here) and honestly, having read those other books, I found I had little interest in this one.   NOT Recommended.



 And finally, it would not be the ultimate cookbook round up with out The Ultimate Cook Book!  Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have produced a 700 page behemoth, the sort of book that includes cooking techniques, helpful charts and scores and scores of recipes for everything from soup to nuts.   If you don’t have in your kitchen one cookbook you can Always consult whether you just need to look up how long to cook the roast, an easy recipe for a quick meal or to plan an elaborate multi-course dinner party, this new release is Recommended.

I hope you enjoyed checking out the latest and neatest recent cookbooks.   Please visit again tomorrow for more book reviews on The Thin Red Line.

PS– At the library cook books, both the most mundane and the most extreme can be found at Dewey Decimal Number 641.