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Cookbooks and Criticism

I don’t recall why, but I decided to watch all of the films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar this year. I think I did this once before, years ago, and am learning the same lesson as I did then—the films aren’t that good. With a couple of exceptions, I have found them mostly mediocre or actually bad. I’ve been posting flippant reviews of the movies as I watch them on Instagram for a laugh and a few people have messaged me to say that I don’t seem to like anything. Well, yeah.

What has surprised me about the tone of these comments (accusations?) is that they seem to come not from a place that is aware of how mediocre most cultural production is, but from a criticism of me as a spoil sport or unnecessarily critical or worse, mean. Which baffles me. Taste being subjective and all, we have all surely encountered a work of art that we think is really, really good. We know it is possible. So why would we ever settle for less? And to be clear, I am not talking about enjoyment here, I am talking about quality. I happily can enjoy (and do!) bad things all of the time. Two of my favorite tv shows are The Bachelorette and Midsommer Murders. They are indefensible, and I love them. If you tell me all of the reasons they are bad, I will agree with you but I won’t stop enjoying them. Just like I am not going to act like I think Past Lives is a good film because it is nominated for an Oscar. And how you can still enjoy Maestro and feel connected to it even though it is so very bad.

A thing I inevitably find myself doing after watching these films is going to the review site Rotten Tomatoes, clicking on “Top Critics”, and scrolling through the list of reviews looking for green splotches, which indicate a negative review. I have found they are rare with Oscar-nominated films. I enjoy reading the ones I find, even if we disagree on the reasons the film was bad, it is reassuring to read someone on my side of the line. But the scarcity of negative reviews does seem weird. (Though I am always impressed by how many professional (or semi-professional) film reviewers there are in the world.) This then makes me wonder about criticism in general. Its uses and limitations. And then occasionally I end up thinking about cookbooks.

Cookbooks, like all forms of cultural production, are mostly kind of bad. But unlike film, or literature, or even opera, they seem to exist within a culture of very strange universal praise because nobody really engages with cookbooks critically. They receive press. They appear on lists of the season’s best books compiled by editors who often have not read or cooked from them. They are posted about on Instagram by industry friends and colleagues of the author who got the book for free (#ad) and can’t wait to dive in to the book but probably never do. I might even be guilty of this! If the authors are very lucky (/have a good PR team) they get a spot on a morning or late-night television program. So it appears to the public as though everyone agrees they are good and have been vetted by experts. When the reality is that most cookbooks are not very good and very few people actually read them or cook from them, especially industry experts.

I suppose you could argue that you can find reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. But I don’t think many of us take those kinds of online reviews very seriously these days. It is hard to know if the authors know what they’re talking about or if they thought Past Lives was a great film. There are the James Beard awards, but just look at the Oscar nominees for proof that industry awards are generally suspect and reflect something more than the best products of the industry. Judging of the James Beards, (like all awards) seems to lack transparency and rigor. And don’t forget authors have to pay to even be considered for an award.

Years ago Food52 had a cookbook competition, The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, in which a handful of cookbooks entered into a bracketed competition pitting book against book until a winner was crowned. They were judged by a bunch of industry and non-industry folks. I liked the idea of this a lot, and there were some good pieces of critical writing that came from this series. But overall it was riddled with problems: a lack of transparency for how books were chosen to be included, judges who took their tasks more or less seriously, an inclusion of random celebrities who lacked any understanding of cookbooks or even cooking. But mostly there was an unwillingness to be very critical. The majority of the reviews could be summarized as “both books were great but if I had to pick one…”. It lacked teeth. And The Piglet ended in 2020.

This general lack of criticism creates a strange feeling void around cookbooks. It is disappointing to encounter a cookbook you really hate and have nothing to do with that energy. No space for commiseration or shared outrage, no green splotches. It can make me feel inappropriate for having such strong feelings about cookbooks. It’s just a cookbook is what the cultural response can feel like.

But what does it say that we don’t want to be critical of a particular genre? What does it say about those authors and how we view them? I don’t think being critical of things is being mean. I think to be critical of something is to take it seriously. And I am concerned by how unseriously we seem to take cookbooks. Because, though they may be rare, there are great cookbooks out there. And they are often treated exactly the same as every other cookbook.


42 comments to “Cookbooks and Criticism”

  1. Tell us some cookbooks you think aren’t terrible, or are in fact amazing! Always looking for recommendations from a discerning eye, and every recipe I’ve ever made that you’ve posted has been GOLD.

  2. Tell us which cookbooks you do find excellent! Always looking for recommendations from a discerning eye, and every recipe you’ve posted that I’ve made has been GOLD.

  3. YES! I agree with this so much. I love cookbooks, and they are not all good. I also like to COOK from my cookbooks, and I’m always surprised (though I shouldn’t be) when a cookbook that has received a lot of praise, etc. has recipes that don’t work, concepts that aren’t really fresh/exciting, or other major flaws. And then, yes, I don’t know what to do with this information, except put the book away and wish I’d spent my money on something else – and then be surprised when it still shows up on an end-of-year list. Totally agree that “it’s just a cookbook” is a really unfortunate attitude that devalues the category – and the work put into great cookbooks, and the very act of cooking, and the role of domesticity in our lives.

  4. I agree that most cookbooks are terrible. Cookbooks could be more instructive if the concept was explained at-length (and maybe something even a little crazy like historical precedent…), before a wrote, didactic, instruction manual was delivered.

    And Taste and Technique by Naomi Pomeroy is the best cookbook ever written.

  5. I miss The Piglet. Still love ToB, which I think does go negative quite often

  6. THIS is the blog post I needed to hear right now. I deeply agree there is so little criticism of cookbooks. The Piglet was… okay. Generally more meaningful than end of year lists, but still wonky and lacking often times. It was a good start to a critical look at cookbooks. Nowadays I vet almost all cookbooks by borrowing them from the library first before committing to buying. So much mediocrity to sift through.

  7. Yes YES. I’ll regularly check out cookbooks from the library and if in the couple weeks I have them I find myself reaching for them more than once then I’ll consider buying it for my shelf….t’s still always surprising to me how 99% of the time I’m left uninspired…

  8. antarvani says:

    March 6th, 2024 at 6:20 pm

    Yes, most cookbooks are hardly creative or inspiring, especially the last decade. They’re so formulaic. One can only go through so many variations of caesar salad, grilled chicken, root vegetable gratin, herbed focaccia, berry crumble, and salted peanut butter thing. I’ve heard people say that one keeper of a recipe makes a book worth it. I don’t pay to watch one great scene in a movie. Why must I settle for less with cookbooks?

  9. I love food so much- I read cookbooks like novels. I check out thirty cookbooks from the library, and my personal review metric is how many recipes from the book I want to cook. I have come to the conclusion that most modern cookbooks are deeply mediocre. Older cookbooks had to justify their existence more, so I find they often have a stronger point of view.

    The Stained Page newsletter (which I use largely as a notification of what cookbooks are being released) had a lovely article about why many modern cookbooks have nigh identical recipe lists.

    I think cookbooks are particularly tough, because every one is both targeted at a rank beginner (you must own a mixing bowl) and also at folks who have experience and want a new perspective or technique or flavor.

    ANYWAY: I don’t have any overarching coherent thoughts but I would read your cookbook reviews.

  10. So much good stuff to think about here! I wonder if it has to do with the complexity required to fully consume and judge cookbooks. Cooking is a lot of work! They often have so many recipes, how could one possibly do more than scratch the surface? But cooking and learning about it are my absolute favorite, so I would absolutely love stronger criticism of cookbooks to inform where I take this journey next.

  11. I relate so much to the “accusations” piece of not liking something! I’ve been watching all the Oscar nominations this year (and also sharing on Instagram) – I posted one tame: “I found this weird and not for me,” and received similar replies.

  12. So refreshing to read this! I am so tired of all the cross promoting of friends and the “can’t wait to dive in” – why not wait until you did actually dive in and then highlight what you liked? Probably like you said, because they rarely do. It’s good to have positive, supportive environments but this almost feels cliquey at times and you end up not being able to trust any endorsements anymore. I mostly rely on online cookbook clubs these days and see which recipes seem to work for people or which book gets lots of folks excited to cook. And then I still only get it from the library to see if it actually interests me. It’s a much needed conversation so thanks for writing about it;

  13. You are making great points here.
    I agree with the other commenters; your reviews/recommendations would be greatly appreciated, if you were interested in sharing them. Thank you.

  14. Oh yes. Whole-heartedly agree. Some of the most ‘popular’ recipe books I have had over the years had truly awful recipes in them. I agree with so many of your commenter’s thoughts too. Like Andrea, I too am now checking cookery books out of the library first and I don’t recall ever buying one afterwards. Some recipes I have tried from them have been so bad the final product is thrown out. Thank you for articulating this problem so well and in a way that had me nodding along and saying “yes!” inside my head :)

  15. Alev Esmer says:

    March 7th, 2024 at 1:16 pm

    I completely agree with your comments. I feel like I am wasting money since I do not feel like cooking/baking from most of the recent books I bought. And many reviews seem to be about how good the the pictures look, instead of how good the food is. Please give some recommendations.

  16. Hi all! Thanks for the comments and commiseration here. Will think about finding ways to recommend books I care about and think are useful.

  17. Christina says:

    March 8th, 2024 at 5:28 pm

    I recently had a very similar epiphany, due to Mezcla. I thought this cookbook was so bad! Yet I had seen it on so many “lists” …and I was baffled as why it was being recommended. I was like “No one holds these cookbook authors accountable!” There was a long introduction about how the author spent a couple of years living in Italy with her parents before the age of ten, and then her grandparents had a home in Mexico, so she felt very deeply connected to the culinary traditions of both of these cultures. And there were so many recipes where she was like, “I’ve never had the traditional version of this dish, but this recipe is my riff on it!” Just…. WHY? Why would I make your Black Forest crumpet when you have never had a piece of Black Forest cake “despite being a fan of all the ingredients”? I didn’t even try making anything from the book because nothing looked appealing. I was SO irritated by this book, and until today had nowhere to put my irritation. Thank you for providing the space and allowing me to vent my spleen.

  18. Got to your blog, Tim, via the mention in a Stained Page email — and it, and this post, are great. (Also, you had me at the Howard’s End quote.) Back to this particular post — deeply interesting. Especially in this current era, when it feels like there’s a veritable fire hose of new cookbooks. And just an added point — while it’s obviously necessary recipes work, instructions are clear, photography stands up etc., I think a new cookbook has to do something that hasn’t already been done (or puts a new twist on its precursors), especially if it’s already been done better. Just like a good movie reviewer has to have a solid knowledge of films, both recent and more historic — the best kind of cookbook reviewer would give context for a new volume. Has it broken new ground? Does it echo something from the past? How is it better, different, stand-alone worthy from the other books that in its same “genre”? My 2¢ anyway…

  19. As a former L.A. Times Food editor who long ago incurred Anthony Bourdain’s wrath with a tough review of his “Les Halles Cookbook” (to the point that he waged a lifelong vendetta against me), I read your post with great interest. These days, I review cookbooks at Cooks Without Borders; since founding the site 8 years ago, I’ve tended to review only books I’ve loved and can sincerely recommend. I do, however, put the volumes through their paces, testing six or eight or more recipes each time. I gently take the authors to task for recipes that don’t work.

    The last couple of publishing seasons, however, have unleashed upon the world slews of titles — often from respected authors and chefs — that are riddled with recipes that flop, that require you to make 10 sub-recipes first, that are way off on yields, or that seem never to have been touched by recipe tester or editor. Lately my reviews have been more critical, as outstanding titles are fewer and farther between. If you’re wondering why I’ve shied away from sharp criticism, it’s because I spent many years as a restaurant critic — one known for being unwaveringly honest (some called it harsh), and it has felt like such karmic relief not to go there in print anymore.

    After reading your post and the excellent comments, I’m wondering if it’s time for my inner Mr. Nice Guy to step aside. There’s nothing that makes me madder (on readers’ behalf) than spending a small fortune on ingredients and hours at the stove, only to wind up with an inedible mess.

  20. yes, dying for cookbook reviews! Particularly annoyed by “most anticipated” and best cookbooks of the year lists that appear to be only about their topic/hype and not about using them. one thought i have in regard to how people reacted to your movie takes was that in my mind they were not criticism but snark. Snark is often good, especially as a response to powerful/elite tastes/things blindly accepted as good because of the culture juggernaut behind them. But snark also risks its own form of elitism and passing on a feeling of there being a ‘cool kids’ club that you’re not part of if you enjoyed something that is now being ‘snarked’? (what did i miss? what’s wrong with me that I liked that?) of course, this is also weird…that people could be so ‘hurt’ by diverging takes/opinions. i also do think it’s bizarre how willing we can all be to protect rich/famous/terrible people who don’t need protecting by taking them more seriously than they may be taking us as someone who deserves something good. The internet also feels stripped down to simply being a taste machine now. Its main use being a way to find shortcuts to developing one’s own sense of taste and judgement. Criticism (which could even be about cookbooks!) that teaches you a new way to see the world for a moment feels really enlightening and hard to come by. (been enjoying listening to the Merve Emre interviews via a link from you)

  21. I’m always ion my soapbox about poorly written recipes.
    Friends come to me and ask “Why didn’t this work?”
    My first reply is “consider the source.” I am openly critical of the NYT ‘s
    recipes that are often the recipe in question. My second responses is, to avoid landmines,
    learn cooking techniques

  22. I agree about both the Oscars and cookbooks. Sometimes I enjoy going through the cookbook section of a bookstore to see how ridiculous the section is. Everyone and their grandmother has a cookbook and I get the sense they were churned out without too much thought or testing. I judge a cookbook based on how successfully I can execute the recipes. There have definitely been disappointments among the books that get the most attention. However there are definitely those that deserve the high praise they receive and I return to those constantly.

  23. I so relate to this. I place blame on toxic positivity which seems to have invaded all areas of life. I’m a law librarian who struggles at work to provide meaningful feedback because everyone wants it sprinkled with sugar which only buries the lede.

  24. Interesting food for thought. I think what we define as “good” can be different for many people. A reader may find one cookbook works for them, while another might not. It’s subjective. Personally, I like cookbooks that have flavour and are unique from other counterparts. Often a majority of the cookbooks I browse have chocolate chip cookies and brownies which is not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for recipes that stands out from other cookbooks. As you mentioned, it also applies to movies and books we read. I also like Midsomer’s Murder :)

  25. A great cookbook is one in which the recipes actually work. Great recipe testing is key to a successful outcome. This phase often gets overlooked. Melissa Clark and Davici Lebovitz are two writers that produce good books that meet aesthetic and culinary demands. Too often editors seem to think pretty pictures are enough. While I love a good story, iode a good recipe even more, As it relates to the Piglet, sadly it lost its way. The testers too often strayed from the recipe, did their own thing and left the reader to wonder if the book was any good.

  26. Interesting food for thought. I liken the dilemma to think critically while pursuing any artistic vision to where the music industry sidestepped into the land of American Idol,, et al-shortcuts to infamy. Fake it to make it culture. Access information overload has made artistry a lazy but glam-ish pursuit. Andy Warhol said it long before 15 mins was the attention span.

  27. So, having read through the comments, I’m kind of puzzled. The post seemed to be about the significant percentage of cookbooks that are being churned out with inadequate recipe testing and editing, leading to recipes that are flops. I think that probably qualifies as “bad” in anyone’s definition. But then there are the comment and reply about being annoyed by the book Mezcla because of the author’s notes in which she admits to a lack of experience with the foods she’s riffing on— so annoyed, in fact, that the initial commenter didn’t make anything from the book. How is that any different than the reviews you mention in which the book apparently looks great but the reviewer hasn’t tried anything yet? Same amount of actual experience (zero), opposite reaction. And I get it— I can think of authors whose online personas annoy me enough that I won’t buy their books. Or the design— Molly Baz’s More Is More, for example, which is so stylized it’s almost unreadable to me. But then I’m not in a position to review the actual substance of their books— those recipes might be great. I went on Eat Your Books and looked Mezcla up, out of curiosity— 88 notes on various recipes, almost all of them positive and kind of amazed that these unusual combinations tasted so good. (I’m not in the industry and I have no connection to the author and I didn’t get a free book for my unbiased opinion.). :) I guess what I’m trying to say is that the proof of the pudding literally is in the eating with cookbooks, which unfortunately means that, as Paula said on Stained Page News, a fair investment of time and resources would be needed to actually assess a cookbook properly. And then that raises the issue of which books merit that sort of testing, given the number of cookbooks being released, and what kind of bias there would be in choosing which books to review. I’m not pretending to have an answer— I just think it’s an interesting thing to consider: how to review cookbooks fairly and properly. Just throwing that out there.

  28. Hi GM. Maybe you meant to respond to Paula over on Stained Page? Are you conflating our essays? Because my piece was not about recipe testing or recipes that didn’t work. And I definitely do not think the only way to judge a cookbook is by the recipes. That doesn’t make any sense to me and feels like a real disservice to the author (food stylist, photographer) who put a lot of work into the other components of the book. Part of the reason cookbooks are difficult to judge is that people are looking for different things from them and as others have mentioned serve various purposes. And I don’t have a solution to this problem or the challenges of cookbook reviewing. I also don’t really expect it to change since it is not necessarily in the best interest of the publishers who control the whole game.

  29. Yep, probably conflating the two essays, since I read both yesterday and didn’t get a chance to write until today. :) My mistake— sorry! And I agree that there are many aspects to a cookbook, since styling and design and photography add so much to the overall package. Could I ask, if things changed, and they probably won’t as you said, what would you like to see in a decent cookbook review? And also, what makes a book bad to you? As opposed to books that you recognize as perfectly good but just not your thing? Just curious because I’m not sure how I’d answer that myself except for the really obvious “recipes that don’t work.”

  30. Hi GM- No worries! I think the best critics of film or restaurants or whatever, don’t really make the good/bad judgement. They describe their experience and what worked and what didn’t. Obviously it is often very clear if they liked it or not. But over time, if you read that critic’s work regularly. You get to know their taste and pov and how it relates and doesn’t relate to your own. So that when they describe their experience you can get a sense of how you might like or dislike it. Because we’re all different and taste is subjective, but good criticism transcends all of that. Which is connected to why I love reading negative reviews of films I like (or positive ones of films I didn’t like). It helps me articulate what I liked (or didn’t like) about the film and why. I didn’t like Past Lives overall but recently talked to someone who loved the movement and blocking in the film and it made me realize that was a part of the film I liked too. So I guess I would like to see cookbooks reviewed in a way that is similar to film or literature. (But also I think that you or I as regular people can just think things are good or bad based on instincts. Ha. I’m not sure we all have to be able to write a dissertation on why we didn’t like something. Because we’re not professional critics with any power in the industry. I’m just a dummy with strong opinions. ; ))

  31. Makes sense— thanks for the reply. Even more thanks for the oatmeal crisps recipe. :) Take care.

  32. After I wasted a lot of money on bad cookbooks, I started getting them from the library. If it was a useful book with realistic recipes, I went ahead and bought it.

  33. Catherine says:

    April 1st, 2024 at 10:27 am

    Hi Tim—I just found this piece via a link on David Lebovitz’s newsletter and just want to say thank you for an important and long-overdue take on the current overwhelming avalanche of worthless crap cookbooks. Don’t even get me started on the “recipes and stories” trope . . .

    Excellent writing and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  34. Iris Jewett says:

    April 1st, 2024 at 11:50 am

    I have been a passionate cook for 60 years. I find my self using cookbooks from years ago, Irene Kuo, Paula Wolfert, Craig Claiborne, Mrs. Barbar Singh, and the J oy of Cooking. I watch Lucas Sin on YouTube. I get emails from the Gourmet Traveller (Australian) and take cookbooks out of the library. I agree that cookbooks in the last ten years are mediocre and repetitive. I find too many times the word “healthy” in the title is an adjective for don’t buy this book. I also believe that everyone has different taste buds and you have to find an author with a similar taste to yours.
    I have really enjoyed your comments and the comments that followed.

  35. Thank you. I also came here via david leibovitz and your Article made me think about a cookbook i saw on.instagram that was preisen for not including the size or shape for the baking pan for any of the recepies. I find that an utterly idiotic selling point, but a Selling point it was – it was Sold out in the onlineshop belonging to the profile that Preisen the Lack of basic Information for a successful baking experience. Argh.

  36. I own hundreds of cookbooks some of which Ive never made a single recipe and others I return to again and again. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s books, The Cake Bible, The Pastry Bible etc are some of the recipes that are so thoroughly tested and each recipe occupies many pages with ‘tips for success” etc. The Union square Cafe cookbook has provided me with many recipes that are a part of my weekly repertoire and one of the few restaurant cook books that are useful. (I worked there as a bartender in my twenties) The Joy of Cooking is also a favorite. Cookbooks by the likes of Joanna Gaines and other celebs are a waste of time in my opinion. Recently I have delved into Alison Roman’s book “Nothing Fancy” several times. Though I think she should stick to savories. Her dessert cookbook didn’t look promising and I read some bad reviews. Nick Malgieri, an author and teacher has excellent books on baking.

  37. Thank you for this. I’ve purchased so many meh cookbooks in the last 10 years that were hyped as the MOST-AMAZING-COOKBOOK-EVER!!! and I am so exhausted by it. I want a cookbook that draws me in with a few great recipes and then rewards me again each time I pull it from my shelf to find something new. That’s the kind of cookbook that thrives under critical evaluation, but isn’t likely to glitter in the Insta-world.

  38. I agree with those who check out books from the library. That’s how I test a cookbook. I have been collecting cookbooks since I got married 49 years ago. I must have close to 200 hundred books and need to cull them. Sometimes I like looking at the pictures. But I don’t find the new books coming out very inspiring. I rely on Marcella Hazen for Italian and Rick Bayless for Mexican food. I have cooked from books by Julia Child, Ina Garten, the Silver Palate, Ottolenghi, Lidia, Paul Prudhomme, Williams-Sonoma, Joy of Cooking. I have an old Readers Digest cookbook from the 70’s or 80’s that offered recipes and pictures of recipes month by month. I learned so much about different kinds of food. And my favorite was a book I got for free when I got married that was published by McCormick Spices. That book taught me how things were supposed to be seasoned and I always used fresh onions and garlic in lieu of the dried stuff. Now it’s easier to look up a recipe online but the dilemma there is which sites to trust. It’s the same problem. I always read the reviews and at this point I can usually tell if it will work.

  39. I’m so glad I found this article. Lately I’ve been getting annoyed after seeing every food influencer launch their identical cookbooks. The market is SO oversaturated and they don’t provide a unique angle other than- ‘I got famous on Instagram!!!’

    That said, the cookbooks I will always love are Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat, because in addition to providing great recipes, she teaches you so much about cooking. I also frequently go back to Dinner in One by Melissa Clark…mostly because I don’t have a dishwasher. But the recipes are wonderful!

  40. Interesting article. Like one of the other commenters, I like to read cookbooks for pleasure and sometimes pull out sticky notes to ID all of the recipes I want to try. Work and life got in the way for a while and I stopped reading them cover to cover and stopped with the sticky notes. I recently picked up the habit again. I suppose that one could argue that you can read cookbooks for the stories, which are often in today’s cookbooks, or for the recipes, or both. It depends on one’s expectations for a cookbook. I often love the photos.
    If the recipes don’t work, well that’s a problem. I recently cooked a recipe from a popular food writer in a popular newspaper. It was so off. Too much creamy sauce and too much garlic. Often, I read a recipe and instinctually know it is off and adjust it. I didn’t with this one and wound up throwing away the leftovers. It took a couple of days to get the garlic out of my system. I joked with my husband that no vampires would come near our house. That said, I’m going to try the recipe again, adjusting it to make a lighter sauce with a lot less garlic. It feels like a good idea that just didn’t come together. Also, the photo did not look like my result. It had far less sauce (which would be a good thing). I wonder who pulled the entire thing together since it didn’t look like what readers would wind up with.
    You remind me to try everything carefully before recommending it. I think that I do that, but you’ve reinforced the approach. Thank you.

  41. It’s an incredible statement about publishing that no standards are being upheld and editors don’t have enough familiarity w the subject that they themselves could read & follow recipes as the low bar to entry. Actually cooking from them should be a basic responsibility. Not stopping on the index until it’s comprehensive and helpful. The job of book design needs a fresh start too often too. I’m reviewing cookbooks and actually diving into each unless they’re just that bad. And 1 in 4 so far are that bad. I should call my column,”Good, Bad or Indifferent?” I think I know what happened to T Susan Chang.

  42. I’ve just finished judging a category in a national book awards. It’s really expensive and time-consuming to do this. I have to buy ingredients to make a selection of recipes from the books I am most interested in (or dubious about) and although I *could* claim ingredient expenses, the process is so long and convoluted, I often don’t bother. I won’t be judging any more awards; i have done my time.

    The same applies to my cookbook and food book reviews. As a whole, I’m experienced enough to know whether a recipe will work or not by the way it is written and the quality of underpinning authorial knowledge and explanation but I do have to test new flavour combinations or variations on classic techniques. I’m also evaluating how closely the recipes reflect the ethos of the book. If an author uses the words, thrifty, quick, simple, family, economical, beginner, easy etc etc about their recipes, you bet I’m gonna look very closely at them.

    I’m fairly sure that my ‘audience’ gains some insight from what- or who- I don’t review or even acknowledge because they know me well. I only endorse books I have cooked from and read from cover to cover.

What do you think?