Recently, I had the good fortune of interacting (just a bit) with respected writer and cook, Michael Ruhlman on twitter. I had re-tweeted a link he posted to a story not related to cooking. I re-tweet links a lot, so I was surprised when he responded by thanking me for the re-tweet and complimenting me on my blog. (Fangirl response: Holy crap, Michael Ruhlman looked at my blog!)
About a week later, I sent out a tweet referring to a blog post written by Jennifer Reese (“Fiddling while Jersey Floods”), herself a cookbook writer and foodie. She made some pointed criticism of a particular recipe in Michael’s latest cookbook, Ruhlman’s Twenty, which I found interesting. Her overall impression was that while Twenty appeals to a lot of cooks, and it did have a few things in it that she did like, it was not a good match for her in particular.
What I didn’t realize is that Michael had seen that link…and apologized for the flawed recipe when I tagged him on #FollowFriday. (Follow Friday is a twitter thing – incidentally, if you’re curious, check out a preview of a forthcoming film about the phenomenon. It’s an excellent, concise explanation.)
So in the interest of gaining some insight for myself, and providing me with an excellent reason to finally do an honest review of a cookbook, I bought Ruhlman’s Twenty.
Still, there are a few things that I have to admit to right off the bat…
While I am a home cook and therefore immensely proud of what I have learned from the best cooks I know (my mom and my grandmothers), I do have what I feel is a fundamental flaw in my cooking.
I hate onion. I cannot overstate how much I hate it. Although I am sure to get commenters regaling me with stories of how they “grew out of hating onion as a kid”…this is not a phase for me. If anything, my distaste for onion has only intensified as I’ve gotten older. I’m in my 30′s for godsakes. I am not going to “grow” out of it.
Truly, I know how much of a handicap that is for any home cook. I understand that by eliminating that ingredient from many of my recipes, I am constantly committing a cardinal sin of cooking. Onions are part of what a lot of cooks call the “holy trinity”. There are several varieties of a “holy trinity”, but in each variation, onion is a vital ingredient. To omit it is a sin…and I am, for all intents and purposes, an unrepentant sinner on that front.
There is, unfortunately for me, a section of this book dedicated to onion as a vital ingredient. You might be wondering how I plan to review that section in particular, much less any other recipe involving onion in this book.
To be frank, I’m just going to have to suck it up. Thankfully, I will have my husband give me his impressions of a recipe from the onion section in particular. I could have eliminated the above confession and simply related my husband’s impressions as my own when I get to that part. However, I feel it’s best to just be honest. So in truth, I will be going through nineteen of Ruhlman’s Twenty personally…and my husband will take on the onion section. I’m pledging to not alter any of the recipes in any way…onion or otherwise.
Here’s how it’ll work:
I’ll review each of the twenty sections over a one month period. Right now I’m thinking of launching this in January. The book is broken into twenty sections (hence, Ruhlman’s Twenty) addressing either a fundamental ingredient or method in cooking. Each of those sections have an essay to introduce the ingredient/method. When I review each section, I’ll talk about my impression of each essay and follow-up with a review of one recipe from each section. If I tried to pull a Julie Powell by going through all the recipes, this would morph into a way bigger project than I’d like to do.
I’m excited and nervous about this, as I have never actually reviewed a cookbook before. I think it’ll be a great experience for me.