I’ve reviewed quite a few ARCs from Quarto since I started this blog, and they have actually been some of the most imaginative and interesting books I’ve read of late. Someone is doing something right over there…
So when I received the email from their marketing department yesterday with not one, but TWO, new cookery books I was thrilled! Firstly, because they are a great publisher, but secondly, and more importantly, because I really do love a good cookery book. I’m a massive foodie. Religious watching of the Food Network, a small library of cookery books… My favourite film is, if I was entirely honest, Chef… I mean, I just like food…
And since I received them at the same time, I decided to do a shorter, joint review.
Author: Rosella Rago | Publisher: Quarto
The foreword is a touching reminiscence of the author’s own childhood and memories of special occasions around the table with family. It gave the book a very personal feel, which I liked. I also liked the way the author included interviews with the Nonna’s who gave her the recipes. It was rather sweet and felt very authentic, which is definitely something I look for in a recipe book.
I hadn’t heard of Rosella before, but I Googled her after I read the book out of curiosity and she has a great website. Go check that out if you like the sound of the book, for sure.
The pictures were lovely, of not only the food but families around the table. And the layout was clean, straightforward and simple. This is a book which would look good on your shelves, and which you would enjoy using.
There really are recipes for every occasion, and many of them were completely new to me. The instructions were simple, and I felt I could probably give most of them a go and achieve good results. They seemed relatively simply. I mean, my efforts probably wouldn’t be as neat as the pictures in Cooking with Nonna… But I have a feeling it would still taste good. Reading them made my mouth water, so they ought to!
I think what struck me most about Cooking with Nonna was the respect for the knowledge of Rosella and other Italian American’s grandmothers. In a world which consistently undervalues the contributions made by our elders, and disregards the whole idea that they might have something to teach us, I thought this book had a beautiful counterculture sentiment. It was a real pleasure to see the values of family and the importance of our elders given a stage.
I really enjoyed reading about all the different family traditions and I thought it was a very unique concept for a book. All in all, this is a book I’d be pleased to receive as a gift, and would definitely pick up in the bookstore. And I do like Italian food, so this is one I’ll be putting to the test!
Author: Zach Neil | Publisher: Quarto
So, apparently The Nightmare Before Dinner is The Beetle House Cookbook; and Beetle House is a chain of theme restaurants in the United States. I did not know this… And I should mention right up front, I hate theme restaurants. And I haven’t seen any of the movies the theme is based on. However… I do enjoy a cute, themed recipe book (no-one said I had to be consistent in my petty likes and dislikes). And I liked this book a lot.
First things first, The Nightmare Before Dinner is gorgeous. Seriously shelf-worthy! The layout and colours and images are super cute, and the pictures are of like, Instagrammable-quality.
The theme is super cute and consistent throughout. I was a bit afraid the food would be made to look like severed fingers and blood and things – this being my experience of Halloween food. And I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to eat something dyed green or which looks like a crime scene… However, and here’s where things got clever, the food actually looks and sounds delicious. But there’s still a real theme. It’s smartly done, because the theme is there in the food, without falling off the edge into the grotesque, and is just reinforced by the names of the dishes and the way they are presented; for help with which at home, there is a handy list at the back…
Love that. Like the Barefoot Contessa, when she tells you how to decorate a table, or Mrs Beeton advises housewives on greeting their husband when he comes home and directing their servants. It adds something for me…
The names of dishes were super adorable and kind of funny. This isn’t a book that takes itself too seriously. It’s clearly meant to be fun, and was fun for the chef to dream up. And it made me smile.
The recipes themselves had the right balance between achievable and aspirational. The instructions were clear and easily to follow. I also liked the list of potential vegan swop-outs; that was thoughtful.
Overall, this is a book I can see my friends wanting (thanks for the help there, that’s Christmas sorted!). It was beautifully presented, colourful, fun, and very enjoyable to read. I loved the party menus and suggestions for Halloween decorations, and I would highly recommend it for fans of Nightmare Before Christmas, and that whole genre, or who are cooking with children.
In fact, it would go nicely with Drink Me: Curious Cocktails from Wonderland, don’t you think? They should team up… This is definitely one I will be buying, and which I know a lot of people are going to love. Oh, and just in time for Halloween, so if you’re having a party… Got a lot of good tips, right here!