At first this book brought about a large amount of scepticism, a feeling of weariness and a small shout of “why?” Maybe it was the twee-sounding title, maybe it was the expectation of what it surely will include. Who knows really what caused the equivalent of a large, audible sigh from this reviewer!
Things did not get much better as one started to read the introduction text. It seemed to try, yet fail, at being a sort of self-help “you can do it” style of book. Maybe there are cultural differences at play? Of course, you can’t please everybody all of the time, yet this book just seemed to tick all of the wrong boxes. Each and every one! That is until you got to the food. Then things looked up. Oh yes!
Here the author managed to find a fresh new approach for the fairly typical introduction to various ingredients, pantry staple items and “cook’s essentials”. Bizarrely the combination of text, photography and style drew in this already cynical, slightly bad-tempered reviewer to take a closer look and keep reading. After all, even the best of them (and reviewers) can find something new to learn, whether it be a new approach, method or totally new factoid. Is redemption coming? Once you get ensnared in this section there is a LOT of information and this is by no means an attempt at padding. Even allowing for the geographical differences such as farmers’ markets in the U.S., the book keeps on giving knowledge-wise.
So maybe the book’s initial focus and approach just didn’t gel for this reviewer. This is a shame as many casual readers might take the same approach and pass on by, unlike this reviewer who has to look at this book for better for worse (did you notice the wedding tie-in there?). Starting with brunch, assuming that newlyweds won’t be getting up that early to have breakfast, you can find some rather tasty-looking recipes to possibly die for, or at least to break the diet for. Some of the titles are bemusing to the uninitiated, such as Dutch Babies (German Puffed Pancakes) with Poached Rhubarb but they do look, thanks to the great photography, sublime. The recipes are written in a comprehensive, business-like manner and you can easily follow the stages to great effect. It would have been nice to have an approximation of preparation and cooking times, particularly when you consider the presumed target audience that inevitably have busy lives, but c’est la vie.
It is amazing how diverse and different the recipes appear. Many of them use and combine ingredients that you might not think possible, yet it is not a case of combining for combining’s sake as they just seem so harmonious, so perfect, so right for each other. After brunch the chapters are split into Little Meals; Supper; Comfort Food; Date Night; Vegetables; Embellishments; Indulgences; Gatherings and finally Escapes. Throughout the chapters is a lot of useful side information that you might miss if you use this book as a pick and cook resource. Despite the chapters roughly sorting out the recipes, you should take time to familiarise yourself with the book to really make the most out of it.
You do not need to be a newlywed, or even married, to make the most of this book. It is a bit like an iceberg with a lot of (good) material hidden beneath the surface. That is a shame as the author deserves a lot of praise for managing to present such a wide, diverse range of “I want to try”-recipes in one place. Sadly, in this reviewer’s view, the execution or the packaging makes it less desirable. But consider biting the bullet nonetheless and give this book a try. Play the wildcard joker if you will. Without the “bad start” this would have been a clear five YUM book, with the bad start it would have been a credible three YUMmer. Yet there are so many interesting, different recipes here that are not variations on a theme that a compromise has to be made! (Hint to publisher: let the sequel to this book, cut in the same vein, stand on its own strong merits … no ‘Keep your Marriage Fresh with Food”-style please!. Frying pans and books can fly surprisingly a long distance with sufficient propulsion!).
The Newlywed Cookbook, written by Sarah Copeland and published by Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811876834, 304 pages. Typical price: GBP16. YYY.