Most helpful critical review
30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
I REALLY wanted to like this cookbook, but....
on September 27, 2012
Let me start off by saying my husand and I are 47 and 41 years old, respectively. I am a vegetarian (no poultry, fish or seafood, but I am not a vegan), and my husband is a meat eater. We have no children, and like to entertain, often trying out new recipes and using our guests as "guinea pigs". While we are certainly not high-class gourmet chefs, we can be adventurous in our food choices and are usually pretty successful in creating delicious cuisine. I have been searching for a new cookbook to give me new inspiration. I had never heard of the Canal House Cookbooks, until I was reading a magazine interview with a known celebrity, and she thought these books were the best thing since sliced bread! After following up with the reviews on Amazon, I figured I couldn't go wrong. I received the book last week, sat down with a cup of tea on my comfy couch, ready to be inspired by the recipes and dazzled by the amazing photography that supposedly graced this book. I really, really wanted to like it. But, I was majorly disappointed. The book started off good, with the Welcome to Canal House page. Very descriptive, I could picture myself in this kitchen, with the wood stove burning, overlooking the canal, delicicious aromas coming from the apartment sized old-fashioned stove...you get the picture. The first "chapter" is a 2 page read called Getting Drunk, by Coleman Andrews. I have no idea who Coleman Andrews is, and wasn't sure if the story was supposed to be funny, or factual or both, but it basically was about his drinking habits, alcohol in general, how it feels to be drunk, driving drunk, the smell of liquor, etc. I just didnt' "get" the whole article, and the 2 cocktail receipes that followed, were not appealing to me (Negroni and Jack Manhattan). So, at this point, I was getting a little concerned that this was not going to be the book I was hoping for, but I continued on. The next section was the appetizer section, with 4 recipes. Fried Zucchini was the first one. I mean, I don't really see what is new or exciting or inventive about that. The next was Beans with Sausage and Tuna. I don't really picture that as an appetizer, and a few pages in, I was now getting to view the supposed GORGEOUS photography. These photos are BLAND! Everything is monochromatic. Beige or white background, beige, white or earthtone serving pieces, similar colored food. Some of the food (like the Tuna in the above mentioned recipe) looks dry. I'm a very visual person, and my husband is actually a part-time professional photographer (although his specialty is photographing people, not food, and I do recognize the difference), but there is NOTHING in these photographs that is making me want to run out and create these dishes. I get that they are supposed to be simple, made in a simple kitchen, presented in a simple serving dish, with a simple table setting, but unappealing and bland are different than simple. I got to feeling that they were going for the Little House on the Prarie look - simple little beige linen dishcloth, draped over a very used copper kettle, with perfectly placed beige food inside. URGH! I made it through the rest of the book, and unfortunately, there is just nothing here that grabbed my attention. About 4 recipes using duck. I'm not even sure I can get duck in my local chain-grocery store, and really don't have many friends that like it. One recipe for veal, which as a vegetarian I have a real issue with, (many restaurants around here don't even serve it anymore) and again, none of our meat eating friends eat it. The recipe for lobster stew has you plunging a sharp knife into the lobster before cooking right behind his eyes. I suppose that is quicker and more humane than boiling him to death, but I don't even know if my husband would do that. There were a number of ingredients that I am not so sure would be easy to find unless I were shopping at a specialty (expensive) gourmet grocery store...duck eggs? juniper berries? Rouge Vif d'Etampes pumpkin? ... Maybe I am just not sophisticated enough for his cookbook, or maybe my ideas of simple cooking are much different than what is suggested in this book. So, unfortunately, I cannot recommend it, and tomorrow I will be bringing it to sell at my local used bookstore. Hope they are interested!