Is This A Cookbook? Adventures in the Kitchen
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Yes, Is This A Cookbook? is full of recipes, so it hits that mark very well. And is Heston Blumenthal a cook? Indisputably. But to stop with the first, obvious answer to either question is to miss what makes this book distinctive.
Blumenthal’s restless exploration of technique and ingredients are the basis for his fame, arising from his Michelin 3-star restaurant The Fat Duck in the UK, and further explored in other restaurants. Each of the 70 recipes in this book is preceded by a discussion of Blumenthal’s impulse behind making the dish, many of them framed by his introduction in which he asserts that reading and cooking are both quantum experiences, determined by perspective and emphasis.
Some of his reasons for these recipes are simple. The food is good. Who can argue with a taco? In other cases, Blumenthal has spotted something that he finds intriguing: a flavor combination, a texture contrast, a way to use an ingredient you might be wholly unfamiliar with (see page 296 for a chapter on using crickets to make the likes of protein bars, ketchup, and stock.).
Is This A Cookbook addresses cooks—real or aspirational—who are looking for what the book’s subtitle promises: adventures in the kitchen. This is not a weeknight kitchen guide. Some recipes ask you to prepare several elements, and many ask you to pair ingredients in unusual ways: bananas with parsley; tomato with coffee.
The somewhat whimsical energy of Blumenthal’s approach is reinforced by illustrations by Dave McKean, who also illustrated the original The Fat Duck Cookbook with similarly madcap work.
Choose this book to expand your ideas of what can be done in the kitchen.
Hardcover. Line drawings and color photographs throughout.