This was prepared before the COVID-19 Pandemic became an emergency in the United States. This post is about our rating system going forward as we continue to review cookbooks and support cookbook writers during a difficult time.
2020 is a new year, and while it’s been three months since the new year began, there is obviously still time for change. I want to make a change here at Eating Normal, and I want your opinion. I want to start rating our monthly cookbooks. A few weeks ago, I asked you what you wanted to be considered when I started rating our cookbooks. A few of you responded on facebook, and you’ve been heard. Here are our categories:
When we talk about accessibility in terms of a cookbook, we’re talking about what it takes to make the things inside. Do you need a lot of special equipment? Can you get the ingredients without a two hour research period at your computer? Eating Normal is for home cooks, and I want you to know if these books have a place in your home. This is the most easily identified rating that will help my readers.
Are there techniques in the cookbook that an average cook might struggle with, or do I just need to know how to boil water? Does the writer explain those hard things, or do they expect you to know it? We all need a challenge once and awhile in the kitchen. We also need someone to teach us how to overcome those challenges. Eating Normal will assess the general difficulty of the recipes in each cookbook and how well the writer helps guide you to rate the difficulty of the book.
No one needs seven different versions of relatively the same recipe piling up in their cookbook repertoire, except for me. My job is to help make sure you aren’t buying the same cookbook with a different chef’s name on it. Creative, interesting recipes will give points in originality to each cookbook. Almost every cookbook will have some kind of chicken recipe, etc, but we want different flavors and combinations.
By their powers combined, we have created the first iteration of our Eating Normal rating scale. This is open to adjustment over the coming months as we actually try to rate cookbooks against these scales. They may not work for every cookbook, and there may be areas that I want to address that these three do not adequately address. For now, it’ll have to do.
This rating scale will make its first appearance during our final review of Japanese Home Cooking by Sonoko Sakai, coming out in a few days. We already have a few articles out about our experience with the book, and there are still more to come.. Take a look around! We’ve hit a huge burst of posts toward the end of March now that my initial panic has passed and I can make myself do things.
A lot has been said about how we have all seen this before. I’m a child of the nineties. I saw swine flu and ebola and SARS and West Nile Virus. I remember the general concern in the air, but I lived in a place where all of these things felt so far away. I don’t think I knew anyone who ever got swine flu at the time. Ebola never exploded like we were all terrified of. There is conflicting information out there about the current pandemic that has us all frightened, and I want to believe the people that tell me not to be afraid.
But I am afraid.
I’m afraid for my older relatives and my friends with chronic health conditions. I’m scared of all of the cancellations pouring in every single day from the NBA to the Overwatch League to Disneyworld. My every day life has already been disrupted in some small way by the abrupt ending of sporting events nationwide. Every time my boss calls us together in the office, I feel my heart leap in a mini panic attack.
I’ve been Meal Kit Curious for years. Ever since Jaime Oliver started advertising Hello Fresh back when he was serious about cooking on youtube, I wanted to know if the whole thing was worth it. Getting curated boxes delivered every week with new recipes every single time had a lot of appeal, but as each new and similar service appeared, they looked more expensive than the last. The cost outweighed the apparent benefits every time I was tempted to order a giant delivery of three or four meals a week.
Then I walked into a Target for the first time in two years when we moved to Wisconsin and found Hello Fresh and Local Crate meal kits in the refrigerated section. This was the first I knew about anyone packing individual meals and recipes to sell as a single set instead of part of a bundle. The same type of service is offered at most of the local groceries around here too. We tried one from Festival Foods that taught my husband to love roasted broccoli, but I hadn’t picked one up since.
We’re coming onto the beginning of a new era, ladies and gentlemen. 2020 is upon us, and that means that I should be preparing a ranking of this year’s cookbooks of the month. Unfortunately, this last half of the year was so hard financially and emotionally that we once more did not hit a total twelve cookbooks. So, to fill the void, I present to you the top five cookbooks from my two years of Cookbook of the Month to give you some last minute gift ideas for the home cook in your life. These are in no particular order.
The title for each book functions as a hyperlink to the Amazon page for the book in case you really need that last minute gift RIGHT NOW!
For the Budding Baker: Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish
I cannot overstate my praises for FWSY even two years down the road. I was always curious about bread baking, and this book makes it easy for the homecook to understand and accomplish. The great undertaking of the project feels more manageable in the hands of Ken Forkish, and he gives you options depending on how adventurous you’re feeling in your baking.
There is a minor equipment barrier that you may also want to address for your budding baker when you gift this cookbook, such as proofing baskets and a dutch oven for baking the bread. Be sneaky in the kitchen and see what you’re giftee needs.
Hey, everyone. Long time, no post. I know. It's been a rough June.
I had surgery on the 17th (Don’t worry, it was very minor and outpatient!), and I feel like I spent the whole month waiting to get in until it finally happened. I neglected a lot of things, namely this blog, while getting ready for surgery. Today is the best day of my recovery so far, so I’m taking some time to let you all know what is going on.
For starters, I have still been cooking out of our June cookbook of the month. You’ll get a review for Indian-ish before the end of the month. I wish I could have done more with it, but I can barely stand being on my feet for much more than ten minutes or so at a time. Cooking hasn’t been a high priority during my recovery. I must have asked my husband to pick up food every day this week, poor man.
I’ve also got our July cookbook of the month picked out. There will be more on that before the end of the month. Hint: it’s another Bon Appetit personality’s cookbook. After getting Alison Roman’s Dining In at the recommendation of the Bon Appetit foodcast, I have definitely been shilling it out to some of their people this year.
I’m also planning a very nerdy outing for next month. July sees the release of Final Fantasy XIV’s new expansion, Shadowbringers. I am very excited, and to commemorate this nerdy part of my life, I’ll be doing a recipe based on one new culinarian recipe every week to two weeks. We’re going to have a lot of fun. I don’t know how long this project will go on. Depends on what Shadowbringers has in store for us culinarians.
The next few weeks for me are all about recovery: physically and in my writing. Thanks as always for hanging in there with me during these rough patches.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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