Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: Deliciously Light

Title: Bon Appétit: Deliciously Light
Amazon is behaving oddly

Author: Bon Appetit magazine staff

Date: 2001

Publisher: Condé Nast

ISBN: none

Length: 80 pages

Illustrations: a few black-and-white drawings

Quote: “For many people, serving soup and salad together captures the essence of light, delicious dining.”

What you’ll love (or regret) about this cookbook is that it is, even more than the recipes it contains, “deliciously light.” This is not a big glossy coffee-table cookbook, nor is it a Complete Collection for Complete Beginners. It’s aimed at people with some cooking experience, quite a lot of money, and an interest in trendy, yuppie-friendly, relatively “light” recipes.

+Sandy KS recently complained that some people are down-rating all food blogs because it’s hard to tell whether people have tested the recipes they post. Well…in some cases that’s true. The number of combinations of foods that people will try to put onto the same plate is probably finite. After reading and testing a certain number of recipes for cucumber-and-yogurt dip you can say that (a) the tzatziki recipe on page 6 is likely to appeal to those who like that sort of thing, and (b) it’s a long way from being the “lightest” tzatziki recipe in any extensive collection since it does add sour cream to the yogurt, and (c) if you’re not really wild about the taste of yogurt and/or sour cream, plain old cucumber slices with a sprinkle of salt and/or lemon would be a great deal lighter than a cucumber-flavored cream dip scooped up on wheat pita chips, and would also be vegan and gluten-free, and (d) but then again, if you do like yogurt and/or want to use unsugared yogurt as a probiotic supplement, you’ll probably like tzatziki with or without sour cream. 

Then again there are combinations—I think of a recipe from a popular children's "encyclopedia" of my youth, a party dessert that was basically whole juicy oranges slurped up through mint-flavored Life Savers—that may look better on a page, or even on a plate, than they actually taste: I’ve never met anybody who remembered ever enjoying any combination of mint and orange flavors as much as they enjoyed either flavor by itself.

If enough people fund my web site to bring this “bookstore” to real life, one thing we may do is test recipes.
I’ve not tested most of these recipes and don’t plan to, but I can encourage less adventurous readers to try some of them for yourselves. There’s a walnut-garlic dip that still contains more oil than I’d care to dip my raw veg into, but that gets its thick consistency and creamy color from boiled potato rather than whipped oil, egg, or cream (it’s a vegan recipe). There’s a naturally pink “Watermelon Lemonade” that’s rich in trace minerals and guaranteed to be yummy with or without alcoholic additions. There are trendy, yet tasty, baby spinach and fruit salads (several of them). There are lots of recipes that are “free” from whatever you’re trying to avoid.

There are some recipes I personally wouldn’t care to bother with. Why, if people want to eat “light,” would they want to add lots of butter to rice and pack it into ramekins rather than just, y’know, boiling it? Cooking rice in chicken broth adds more than enough calories from saturated fat without adding butter! And why would anyone interested in eating “light” even consider breading their chicken not only with flour and breadcrumbs, but with cheese? And, given that most of us are accustomed to eating green beans either steamed, or stir-fried in just enough oil to film the wok, how can a “light” cookbook even mention boiling the beans in saltwater and then tossing them in six tablespoons of olive oil? Obviously the magazine editor was “lightening up” a recipe that must have called for melting a whole stick of butter into those beans, but…yuck! How overripe did “green” beans have to be to give anyone the idea of adding fat to them in the first place?

However, if you can get good fresh fruit and veg, I’d imagine that any of these recipes would be delicious, because fresh fruit and veg are delicious. The trend for light,  plant-based food is far from over, and the “trend” to push people into places where they can’t raise their own veg if they tried should keep anything that involves fresh local produce a status symbol for years to come. If you enjoy cultivating a reputation as a gourmet cook, you'll probably enjoy this book.

Magazine offices are not living authors so this is not a Fair Trade Book. It is, however, small and light enough to fit into a package with several Fair Trade Books, so you're encouraged to scroll down and find some. To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package by postal money order to P.O. Box 322 (addresses at the very bottom of the screen, or send that amount + $1 per online payment to the e-mail address Salolianigodagewi will send you.