Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Review: The Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

Title: The Smitten Kitchen
Author: Deb Perelman
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Personal Copy

I am not one of Deb Perelman's regular readers. In fact, although I used to read lots of food and design blogs, I quit reading both when I started grad school and haven't picked up the habit again now that I've returned to the indulged and privileged role of the SAHM. But really, I think food blogs and I were on the outs before then-- I'd look at the blogs and get all excited and then turn away from the computer to the realities of my kitchen and feel depressed.

I used to be a good cook. When I got married, I had a cookbook shower. I've subscribed to Cooking Light for years (although I don't really read the recipes). I adore baking. But that's because my kids will eat the food I bake. In fact, the book came on my radar when I was looking for a recipe for rice krispie treats that don't taste like cardboard (and she delivered). But dinner? If at least half of them are going to turn up their noses at the food (including the one who eats four things), then it feels like too much work. We have late afternoon activities every dang day. I hardly ever know when Ed is going to be home until he calls and says he's on his way. And now I have a toddler (soon to be TWO toddlers) who is at my knees when I make dinner.

See all of those excuses? Deb Perelman made me reconsider each one. Her book is gorgeous-- beautiful, simple photography of food made in her closet, which is approximately the size of my pantry. If she can cook this kind of food in there, I certainly don't have excuses related to the size or functionality of my kitchen. I know bloggers thrive on enthusiasm and hyperbole, and this often bugs me, but I think the book hit me at a time in my life where I can be prodded back into the kitchen with a little cheerleading.

I read every story in the book, dropped it in the snow to christen it, then let Rose run around on its pages to make it look well worn, but I still hadn't cooked anything from it, and therefore wouldn't let myself review it. But this morning Rose and I baked brownie cookies and granola (where I substituted chocolate covered dried cherries for the dried cherries and just about swooned when I sat down to a bowl or three for lunch). So yeah, she's legit. It's not just the stories and the photography, the food rocks too.

I'm taking baby steps back to the kitchen. If there are foods I can start in the morning, that works best for everyone in the family (especially me-- it saves me from being truly harried on the 14 drives to and from the dance studio each week) and there are plenty of recipes in the book that would allow me to prep/marinate/slow cook early in the day. Maybe the kids will expand their palates. Maybe I will forget the phone numbers to all the takeout places within a two-mile radius (which makes dinner so easy). Who knows? Maybe we'll even start having people over for dinner again.

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