Friday, October 29, 2010

Kosher by Design Teens & 20-Somethings: cooking for the next generation - Book Review

That’s right! Personally, besides things that are undoubtedly geared to specific age groups, like infant teething rings, I don’t like such specific pigeon-holing as the title. I think that Susie Fishbein and her publishers sell the book short by pegging it specifically for youth and young adults. This isn’t a criticism of the book, not at all. That’s how things are marketed. They want to make sure that singles will feel that the book is written for them, because Susie’s core readership cooks for family and guests.

I’m the type of person who has friends of all ages, ranging from my parents’ age to my kids’. I don’t think we should limit our social life to those of our exact age and generation. I’m saddened that some of my neighbors refuse to try out our long-running Shiur Nashim (Women’s Torah Class) on Shabbat, because they only want to go to one for “young women.” Personally, I love the mix of ages, ideas and experience.

Now, let’s get back to Kosher by Design Teens & 20-Somethings: cooking for the next generation by Susie Fishbein, the latest in her amazingly popular kosher cookbook series. It really is an excellent cookbook well-organized, easy to follow instructions, lovely pictures etc. It’s definitely an American cookbook, and that’s not just because I recognize foods from my sister-in-law’s Westchester, NY, table. It’s because all of the ingredients, measurements, brands etc. are American. There is no information page with equivalents so people like myself in Israel would know how much butter there is in a “stick,” or what Fishbein means by a box of soup stock etc. Since some ingredients are only available in the states, there should be an appendix with substitute lists. There has been a very well-orchestrated publicity campaigns all over the international Jewish blog world, so the book should have had been edited better for international use.

Also, to make it easier for those shaky in their kashrut, I’d color-code meat and dairy options when they’re for the same recipe, or every recipe. For instance, the Corn Potato Chowder can be either meat, dairy or parve. I’d have the meat ingredients in red and the dairy in blue, so people will have an easier time sorting things out. I’m a great fan of color-coding. When I ran the ready-made sandwich wagon department for a Bagel Restaurant, I color-coded the sandwich labels. It made it much easier to identify the cream cheese from the tuna. It was perfect until a very handsome guy who happened to be color-blind began working in the department. For Jeff, I added shapes. I’m sorry to begin this review with criticisms. Please don’t get me wrong; I do like the book. In the guidelines for reviewers we were told that we may and should add our constructive criticism.

I love reading cookbooks, but when I cook, I don’t follow them. That’s right; I don’t follow recipes. I use cookbooks for inspiration. And this cookbook is very inspiring. Admittedly, the recipes aren’t my usual style, but I’m getting lots of ideas from them. Years ago I bought myself one of those stick- blenders, which I’ve hardly ever touched. I can use it with some of the book’s recipes. There are some really delicious-looking vegetable recipes, like the Creamy Parsnips-Spinach and Za’atar Cauliflower. I’d probably substitute celery root for the parsnips, because I’m always looking for ways to cook those roots instead of throwing them out.

Considering that the book is marketed for students, the young and probably not yet married, it’s important that the recipes will be easy to divide to fewer servings. There are quite a few recipes which can easily be made for just one or two people; for instance, the Herbed Flounder Package. One of Jerusalem’s most handsome bachelors  once made something similar for us. He added more vegetables making it a “one pocket meal.”

The fun of cooking is being creative, and Susie Fishbein does seem to enjoy cooking. Back to cooking for fewer people, it would have helped to get information about freezing the food and cooking in advance. Busy people can’t cook every day. Even though I’m no longer working and traveling daily, I cook as I did then. I do all of my weekly cooking for Shabbat. The soup, meat and some of the side-dishes last the entire week. It’s so much more efficient.

I must admit that I was unpleasantly surprised at all the “hidden sugar” in recipes like Garlic Rosemary Filet Split. It would never have occurred to me to use ingredients like sugar and jam in meat, vegetables etc. Those diabetic and on strict diets should be aware of this. I’m going to have to check with my sister-in-law who cooks many similar dishes to those I discovered in Kosher by Design Teens & 20-Somethings: cooking for the next generation. I’m very curious about how many “non-sweet” recipes have sugar.

I do recommend the book. There’s lots of basic cooking and kitchen information, like the reminders to wash hands. I thought she was quoting me! And yes, the recipes are clear and easy to follow.

My cooking style is very different, much simpler. I use fewer tools, bowls etc. and fewer ingredients. While reading Kosher by Design Teens & 20-Somethings: cooking for the next generation  I developed more of an appetite for writing my own cookbook.

And for those of you, who are anxiously awaiting news, whether or not you’ve won the free copy of the book, I’ll be going over all of the rhyming slogans this week and G-d willing around Rosh Chodesh Kislev, November 7, I’ll post the winning slogan. So, if you’ve entered the contest and haven’t yet sent me your contact information please send it ASAP along with another copy of your rhyme. Most of the comments/entries don’t have easily identifiable names, addresses etc.


Hadassa said...

I also think that unnecessarily limiting events/books/items to age groups isn't a good idea. (My mother attended a "senior citizens" class and noticed that everyone was wearing gray or black. She decided that she was going to wear red to the next meeting! And then she decided to go elsewhere...)
I noticed that you mentioned in the review that the cookbook was marketed for students. Perhaps the book title should be something like "Kosher by Design for Students and Others Pressed for Time" or "Kosher by Design for Busy Students and the Young at Heart".
I also love cookbooks. (My rough draft is almost finished.)

Batya said...

My parents kept up multigeneration friendships until they really couldn't.
I decided not to participate in the 50 up stuff run by the moetza, because I don't see the point in it.
So, you've been writing a cookbook?

I guess Artscroll will check out my review today, since I posted on Friday.

Hadassa said...

After we "went natural" many of my neighbors asked for recipes. My cookbooks were all in English and I'd varied the recipes so much that the cookbooks wouldn't have been useful anyway. So I typed up my recipes and printed them. After a few years I had the beginnings of a cookbook, including anecdotal stories that I submitted to the community newsletter. I decided to organize everything into as yet unfinished booklet. To anyone who enjoys both cooking/baking and writing I highly recommend compiling recipes into a cookbook(let).
Elon Moreh has a moadon beit ha kashish for the 60 something set. Many of the activities and programs are open to all ages. Others are tailored to various physical needs. From what I've seen it's a good mix.

Batya said...

So your cookbook is in Hebrew?

Hadassa said...

Yes. My cookbook is in Hebrew. Anyone who can read English is able to read the cookbooks from which I learned, and I do recommend them: The "I Can't Believe This Has No Sugar" cookbook by Deborah Buhr, designed for diabetics (includes official guidelines/information from the American diabetic organization whose name I can't remember) and people with food allergies. "Basic Macrobiotic Cooking" by Julia Ferre. "The Do of Cooking" by Cornelia Aihara.

Batya said...

Wow! I'm impressed.

Ariella said...

It's nice to get your perspective on the same book. I'll add a link to your review where mine is.

Batya said...

Ariella, is your review posted? I couldn't find it.