In Which I Wonder How On Earth To Review A Cookbook

photoIn a surge of optimism the other day, I signed up to review a cookbook.  This will be so much fun! I thought. I mean, look at the author on the cover – doesn’t she look fun? I think at some level I imagined her bringing the cookbook to me – you know, in person – then hanging out to make me some recipes.  She’d do the cooking, I’d pour wine. We’d take a selfie and post it all over the interwebs with lots of emoji and exclamation marks. It would be lovely.

Turns out, that’s not how this works. From the  looks of things, the publisher just sent the book.  (Kelsey Nixon if you’re on your way, let me know. I have wine! I’ll be happy to welcome you!)

In the absence of an unexpected knock on the door, I will endeavor to be confident in my kitchen without professional help.  It’s character building to try something that is this far out of my league. I don’t mean to suggest that I can’t cook at all. I can. And I can follow directions.  But to review this as a book–as the writing someone else has worked endless hours to perfect…that daunts me.  Why should her writing skill be judged according to my cooking skill? (Although I guess that’s what you sign up for when you write a cookbook, huh? I don’t know. It gets rather philosophical…)

To this point, the only intersection between my writing and my cooking occurred in the third chapter of A MAZE OF GRACE, where I confess that in my first year of marriage, I cooked every meal we ate by sautéing various hunks of meat in olive oil and butter. Every. Single. Meal. (except, of course, those involving sandwiches or cereal). There was no baking. No grilling. No broiling. I don’t remember ever opening the oven. That was the year we each gained 25 pounds, and learned that Mylanta gel caps are the best antacid on the market.

But that was then.  I’m better at cooking now–I even use the inside of the oven :) And as I try to grow in this area of life, I have the opportunity to  support the career of another author while doing something that will likely provide any number of “memorable” (read: highly comedic) moments. That’s not a bad deal.

But I could use your advice:

How would YOU review a cookbook? What information would you find helpful? 

Obviously I’m not going to cook ALL the recipes, but I’ll try a bunch of them.  How would you choose which to try–would you go for the ones you’re pretty sure fall within your skill and taste range (there’s a whole chapter devoted to sandwiches!), or would you try something that seems more difficult and/or questionable (Caramelized Onion-Tomato Jam, anyone???) and see what happens?

Tell me about the review that would help you decide if this book is for you.

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