Cook the Books Challenge!

21 Dec

As I’ve told you for the last week or so, my pal Meg and I are kicking off a cookbook challenge for 2013!  We’re here today to give you some of the details!  We want to let you know what’s up now so, if you want to join and start cooking along with us in January, you’ll have some time over the next ten days or so to get your mitts on the awesome book we’ve chosen for January, take a look at it, and cook along with us.  Yep, this year we are going to use our cookbooks!   It’s gonna be fun!  Are you excited?  We are!  We’re both chomping at the bit to get cooking.  So, without further ado….

Welcome to the Cook the Books Challenge for 2013! 

Ok, I’m sure you have questions.  I have answers!

Who?

Us!  Meg and I, and you!

Meg and I have talked about two things pretty regularly over the last few years as friends and as bloggers: (1) Cooking and cookbooks, and (2) and when in the hell we’d ever come up with and lead a blog challenge together.  See, we’d been participants…

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But never leaders!  Not anymore, friends!  Don’t worry.  Think of us more like friendly leaders, not bossy leaders! OK, Meg will be friendly.  I might be more like this…

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My cookbook collection is not gonna dust itself, mmkay?

So, we’ve chosen the cookbooks for you.  That hasn’t exactly been hard.  It’s been really fun, actually.  There are some great cookbooks out there!  We’ve scoured the shelves at our local independent bookstores and libraries and read reviews of the end of the year best of cookbooks lists for the past several years on our favorite websites.  We’ve met and drank hard ciders on rainy Monday nights and planned all this so you don’t have to, friends!

And we’re sharing the labor here, too.  We’ve each picked 6 books and agreed on all 12.  We are going to alternate months of introducing the books to you.  Throughout the month we are both going to cook from the book, and share the fruits of our labor (in word and picture form!  Sorry no smell-o-vision or robot maids to deliver you our food…yet!) with you here and on Meg’s blog throughout the month.  You will blog along, we hope, and at the end of the month we will write a roundup of sorts, telling you all what everyone else cooked from the cookbook and provide links to everyone’s posts.  You will be happy and get so many ideas of the next thing and the next thing and the next thing you want to cook in the cookbook!

Ok, great!, you’re saying.  Now you’re saying:

What? 

Cookbooks!  Cookbooks we have chosen so you don’t have to!

Meg and I have chosen 12 cookbooks to explore and get intimate with in 2013.  And, like I said, we’ve chosen some doozies.  These aren’t your grandmother’s cookbooks, unless you have a hipster grandma or something.  If so, I’m sorry, that must be weird.     It’s a varied and pretty awesome list of books.  There are some classics; there are some very new hot off the presses and very hip books; there are books that will challenge us; there are broad books and specific books.  There are books that are very much of the moment too, illustrating the food trends that we’ve all been a part of over the last few years.   There are also books we’ve chosen with a season in mind to use them.  You will like these books!

The book we have chosen for January is Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.

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Meg will tell you much more about this wonderful book in the coming days.  We decided to start with this homestyle French book because French and French inspired food is still classic and influential and formative of the building blocks of so many other styles of cooking.  But rest assured, Dorie’s book is not overwhelming and fancy.  It’s simple everyday food.  Go take a look at it!  As she says, it’s reflective of the loosening up of French cooking.  This is not Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  This is recipes the author got from friends, her favorite bistros and farmers, and her own kitchen.  This is pulling up a chair in the author’s kitchen and sipping some wine while she tells you stories of her love of Paris and its food and traditions.  I love it so far.

Why?

Well, shit, cuz this is gonna be fun!  Cookbooks are just getting better and better.   You should have seen us picking these twelve books, we were like kings that were tossing out rubies just cuz they didn’t shine bright enough.  Kings I tells ya!

And why cookbooks?  You may decide it’d be funny to make a joke kinda like this: Books?! Hey ohbriggsy and Growandresist, 1987 called!  It wants its paper media back!  Shuddup a ya face!  And get real!  After we pondered it for awhile, Meg and I decided that cookbooks are still the best way to find a recipe you can trust.  But you have to do the work first.  You have to find a cookbook and an author you trust.  You have to hear their stories.  You have to see their pictures.  Cookbooks seem to be improving in content and design to combat the ease and the mess of recipe finding online.

Be honest.  You’re at home and you wanna make, say a whole roasted chicken.  What do you do?  You either google it and make the first recipe you find,  perhaps at the everpresent allrecipes.com, which I avoid like the plague, where you can read the way that every Job Blow from Anytown, USA makes it.  Why do we trust these people?  Why do they use so much processed foods in their recipes?  Or maybe you go to the first food blog you see and make their recipe.  Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.  If it does, you’ll prolly never be able to find that blog again.  Or maybe you spend the next 2.5 hours searching for the best recipe online, concocting the best recipe by combining like 7 different recipes you find, and then prolly not cooking at all cause your tired.  That’s what I’ve been known to do cuz I’m an idiot.  Meanwhile the sweetass cooking playlist you put on has ended, your drink is warm, and your significant other thinks you’re a jackass.

Or maybe you’ve tried to get organized.  Good luck with that!  I have stacks of Food and Wine magazines, Cooks Illustrateds, ripped out recipes, online recipes I sneakily printed out at work, and abandoned attempts at keeping a recipe moleskin.  Where are they all?  Or maybe you’re a cookbook whore, picking up any old one you see, and not throwing away any you’ve ever picked up.  Ladies and gents, meet my mom’s recipe organization system:

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Oh and obviously my mom is a big believer in reduce, reuse, recycle.  Here are my grade school folders holding many treasured family recipes and other not so treasured and never looked at recipes:

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My fifth grade folders!  BT dubs, I’m 37 now! These bad boys are sturdy!

Good luck finding that recipe in there mom!  By the way, my parents are awesome cooks and instilled a love of food and cooking in me, but they are not the most organized people.

Finding a really good cookbook and really getting personal with it is a way to change all that.  You can get acquainted with a cuisine and it’s tools and ingredients.  But don’t just drool over the pictures and recipes and put it by your bedside table and later just artfully arrange it on your shelf to impress your foodie friends.  Use your cookbooks!  That’s where we come in!  In the Cook the Books Challenge, we want to get intimate and dirty and greasy and up close and personal with our cookbooks. And we want you to join us!   And share!  And then everyone wins!  The books will not just collect dust.  We want our cookbooks filled with stains and rumpled pages and scribbles and wine splashes and post it notes and dog eared pages and experiences.  Don’t you?

We  are picking cookbooks to focus on in 2013 to put an end to mass disorganization and internet browsing and using random recipes instead of cooking!

When?

Ok, so here are the nitty gritty details and important dates.

Last Friday of the preceding month:

If you would like to cook along with us, first pick up the book for the month.  Read through it, get a feel for it.  One of us will write up an introduction to the next month’s book by the last Friday of the preceding month.  Thus, Meg will write her intro to Around My French Table by next Friday, December 28.  And we will tell you the books we have chosen four at a time so you can plan ahead.  You can see them below.

Third week of the month:

You then get a few weeks to live with the book and get to know the author and try some recipes.  Don’t foprget to read the introductions.  Some time during the 3rd week of the month, share with us what you did.  Blog about it!  What did you think of the book?  What did you make?  How did it turn out?  Did you have fun?  If you have a blog, send us an email with a link to your post at cookthebookschallenge@gmail.com some time during that third week of the month so we can share what you did. Oh and if you are feeling good about this and know you want to participate, send us an email or leave us a comment here or at Meg’s blog so we can make sure we put you in our reader.  Tell your blogging and food loving friends!  The more the merrier!

Last Wednesday of the month:

Then, on the last Wednesday (or so) of each month, Meg and I will post a round-up of what everyone made, with links to everyone’s posts.  If you don’t have a blog but want to cook along with us, please comment on the roundup post of what you made and how it turned out.  You don’t have to be a blogger to participate, but we do want to hear from you!    By the end of the month, we hope that we are all really acquainted with each book we’ve chosen so we’ll know when we want to turn to it in the future.  It’ll be a community effort!

And don’t worry, this isn’t some strict time committment. Don’t stress out over deadlines.  We won’t either.   If you ever don’t care for one of the books we choose (Blasphemer!), skip the month!  You don’t have to join for the whole year, pick and choose if you’d like.  Hey, man, we’re not the boss of you!

How?

Ok, so maybe you’ve never done anything like this before.  Big whoop!  It’s easy and fun.  Pick a recipe or several recipes from each book.  Give them a try!   Post about what you did.    Now, this doesn’t mean copy the recipe word for word from the cookbook and then post it online.  Meg and I think this is a no no, and so do many other people much smarter and more creative than us.  See, its called copyright infringement.

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The concept is called recipe attribution.  Read a great description of this tricky subject here, by the awesome David Lebovitz.  Oh and while you’re at his site, make his pickled jalapenos, they will change your life.  In brief, if you cook a recipe from the cookbook of the month and make no changes to it, that’s awesome, but don’t just post the recipe.  Instead, tell us what it was like to make it, how you ate it, who you ate it with, what you drank with it, what you listened to, whether you actually liked it, and so on.  And show us your pictures!  Help us figure out if we want to make that recipe too! But if you adapted or changed the recipe, that’s awesome too.  Please tell us about it and tell us why you did it that way!  We all wanna know! Rewrite the recipe as you made it.  Use your words!

OK, we hope you’ll join us!  Oh, and here are the upcoming books for February-April.

February: Asian Dumplings, by Andrea Nguyen.  This one was our very first choice!  Dumplings are very hot right now, right?  Nguyen, a food writer here, covers soupy dumplings/XLBs, samosas, lumpia, spring rolls, gyoza and more.  This one is gonna be fun!  Intro by me!

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March: Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast, by local Seattle chef and hilarious blogger Becky Selengut.    A lot of peeps are mystified by cooking fish.  We don’t want to be anymore!  Intro by Meg!

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April: The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food, by Noah and Rae Bernamoff.  I’m super excited about this one.  Noah used to be a law student who enjoyed himself by smoking meat on his Brooklyn rooftop.  Why: Because law school sucks!  Best believe!  A few years later he’d dropped out of law school and opened a deli in Brooklyn.  The recipes here come from his and his wife Rae’s memories of their childhood family dinners.  Intro by me!

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We hope you’ll join us for Cook the Books!  Meg and I are excited to get cooking, and we hope we can make this a group affair!  Stay tuned for December 28, when Meg will tell you all about Around My French Table.  Oh, and check out Meg’s take on the challenge here!

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24 Responses to “Cook the Books Challenge!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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