Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones

This is a lovely, but more importantly, inspirational, new vegetarian cookbook from UK cook Anna Jones.  This book is very reminiscent of Heidi Swanson's Super Natural cookbooks, which I love.  The format, photography, and especially the food remind me a lot of Swanson's books.  And that is not a bad thing!  The recipes here are for fresh, homey, yummy-looking and -sounding vegetarian food that is easy to prepare and good for you.  There are many lovely recipes and accompanying photographs, but perhaps my favorite thing about this book are the pale blue-green layouts of un-recipes that encourage you to take a very basic formula and change its many parts based on your tastes and the season.  For instance, there is one that is title "One Soup: On Thousand Variations."  Here, Jones gives you 7 basic instructions (e.g., "Create the base layer," "Choose an herb," and "Choose a spice"), and then gives you a bunch of possible options that you can mix and match.  Basically, Jones encourages you to experiment and invent.  Very early in the book, she provides one of these layouts that is entitled "How I put a recipe together," and basically, she lays it out in 8 basic steps with a few examples.  This book is therefore based on the philosophy that you can create your own recipes and are not beholden to anything she says!  Her book is really about offering you possibilities and inspiration, and is definitely not prescriptive.  I love the generous, creative, and very open spirit of this book.  But don't worry, it also includes many, many recipes, every single one of which is accompanied by a short essay by Jones explaining the choices she's made.  The instructions for the recipes themselves are clear and conversational, and embedded in all of them are even more ideas.  At the end of many of her recipes are little un-recipes.  For instance, a recipe for farrow with roasted leeks and smoky-sweet romesco ends with a list of 9 other ways to use romesco, including "spread on toast and topped with a smear of goat cheese for a quick snack," and "spooned on top of a bowl of soup."  Her language, as you can see here, is totally unpretentious and highly evocative without being flowery.  More than a cookbook, this is a book of inspiration and ideas. 

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

NPR Books Tote Bag

Support NPR and buy this adorable tote bag with books that are based on Coralie Bickford-Smith's famous Penguin Hardback Classics covers, with titles of popular NPR book-related segments.  Buy it here for $24.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review: Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick

Kate Bolick's Spinster is about a seemingly simple and obvious topic: women choosing not to get married.  And yet there are no books out there like Bolick's, which deals with "spinsterhood" as a serious and powerful choice.  The title of this book still makes me flinch a little, as the word "spinster" has been only ever been used in a purely derogatory sense in American culture.  It brings to mind an unattractive, bitter, unhappy, friendless, weird woman who is unmarried because who would ever consent to marry such a woman?  A spinster is a woman who has failed as a woman, who has not fulfilled her societal role.  This is surely why the designers of this book chose to put a photo of Bolick, a beautiful and stylish woman, on the cover, along with slashes of neon orange and lashings of Victoriana.  This definition of spinster is simply irrelevant, not to mention offensive and unfair.  American society has shifted enough that women choosing not to get married doesn't seem that strange anymore, and Bolick's book is a much-needed corrective to the outdated view of women as failures if they don't have a husband and children.  Her book is a powerful, smart, and very readable combination of feminist polemic, memoir, and literary history.  Doesn't sound like it's for you?  Does the word "feminist" make you cringe and think of man-hating furry-legged women?  Then this book probably isn't for you, since you probably don't care to think too hard about your cultural assumptions.  If, however, you care about our society and the ways in which it treats women, then this is definitely a book for you.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

Okay, so how much do I love this cookbook?  It is the most playful, joyful, and fun cookbook I have ever read.  The cover offers a good sense of what this book is like inside.  I really enjoyed Christina Tosi's first cookbook, Milk, which included recipes for all of the brilliant, delicious, genius junk food from NYC's Milk Bar snack shops.  That book was incredibly fun to look at and read, but I am not likely to make almost anything from that book, since the recipes are a bit complicated and often include ingredients that I don't have around.  That's not to say these recipes are impossible, but I am not the best cook, and I'm also a bit lazy.  Milk Bar Life includes mostly recipes that are easier to make and include more everyday ingredients.  This book is full of bizarre, trashy, fun, often easy recipes for childish (and I mean that in the best way) junk food that is party-perfect.  Unlike Milk, it includes an equal amount of sweet and savory recipes.  The photos are great and colorful, as is the layout and cookbook design.  It's great fun!