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I am not the intended or correct audience for this cookbook, which is why [personal profile] weirdquark handed it to me. The selling points of this cookbook are: a) it is vegetarian with extensive vegan options and things clearly marked as ovo or lacto or whatnot (okay, actually this is a feature in a cookbook for me, I'd like all of mine to come with a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes) and b) it does not require prep.

By prep Klein means, you know, slicing, whipping, peeling, chopping, etc. Klein's claim is that you can get by in this book without doing any of that.

Therefore I am the wrong audience for this, because when I do not have curry paste in the house and I want to make curry, I do not go to the store. I make curry paste. It is only logical. To me, at any rate. That is how I think about cooking.

But it was worth seeing whether anyone could get away with a cookbook of this nature and have it produce actual food.

Verdict: uh, kinda-sorta? There are a lot of recipes in here that are food, by anyone's definitions. Vinaigrettes, sauces, the reminder that it takes you only five minutes to toast some nuts and pour them on your ice cream, unusual combinations of raw ingredients-- that sort of thing works, and there's a fair bit of it, and it's fine. And there are a few things that mostly require canned and store-bought stuff that I don't consider cheating; I knew that you can make completely respectable fake fondue in ten minutes by melting Nutella with cream, and I did not know that you can use the good kind of store-bought pie crust to make empanadas, though it should have been obvious.

But the vast majority of this-- look, her vegetable potsticker recipe lists frozen vegetable potstickers as an ingredient, okay? You can't tell me that's morally justifiable. And there are a good many pre-made foods out there that simply do not do the same things that the fresh ones do. The kind of minced garlic one keeps in a jar in the fridge is not real garlic, and while there are applications for which I am totally willing to use it, and in fact we always have some around, you cannot have not-real garlic and a whole boatload of other things of the same not-quite nature and expect to produce food. You may produce a reasonable facsimile of food, but it isn't the same. And so I sat there through much of the book muttering 'you know, it would take you five damn minutes to chop some chives instead of using freeze-dried, and do you know how much better it would taste?'

This book was, in fact, a lesson to me as to where I draw my personal line about pre-packaged and pre-prepared foods. I will buy pie crust but not pizza dough, for instance, because the grocery store makes better pie crust than I do but fails pizza anything. I will buy jarred artichoke hearts, canned chickpeas, and frozen Brussels sprouts, but I stare incredulously at canned beets or canned cooked lentils. Freeze-dried shallots are not the same food as fresh; we use both. I chop my own garlic mostly whether I have time or not. I'll buy Miracle Whip but if I want mayonnaise, which is not remotely the same substance, I make it, every blue moon or so. You see. So about half of these recipes I was converting back into food in my head. Some require only minor conversion-- chopping your own garlic will add oh five minutes to most tomato sauces-- some are more major, and some aren't worth it.

If, however, you are the sort of person who really does not have time to/does not want to do the sort of prep the book is trying to avoid, well, it has a large range of both vegetarian and vegan options, and food from a large range of ethnicities, and you should be able to tell from the recipe how close to food it is (hint: the fewer jars you have to open, the better). So for the inexperienced or busy cook, why not. I can't go there with you, but I'm trying not to judge. Failing, but trying.


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