PDFs, Various

I’ve been working my way through the big pile of ebooks I own, and recently—ahead of the delivery of a new ereader—decided it’d behoove me to go through all the ones that I’ve only got in PDF form. It’s a fun pile, because I have no idea where I got most of these, but that’s the story for a great deal of my ebook library. I spent college on the mailing lists of several websites that would do charity ebook sales, and I’m the kind of person who’s rather unable to resist that kind of thing, so it’s unsurprising that, after over a year of making a concerted effort to read through that backlog, I’m down to only a couple hundred books left.

Most of those ebooks I’ve got as various ereader-compatible formats, because, books, duh. A few, though, were determinedly available only as PDF—things that had a lot of visuals and hand-laid-out pages that tend to get, at best, rumpled up by the conversion to epub. None of them felt quite right for a full review on their own, but having gone through the pile, I feel like I should at least mention them here.

“Sushi at Home: A Mat-to-Table Sushi Cookbook”

I remain utterly unconvinced on the concept of sashimi, and am not likely to actually take up sushi-making, but learning the history was interesting. I’m also feeling a bit more open to the idea of trying sushi again for the first time in several years; now that I’ve got somewhat more of an idea of what things are, I’m hoping I’ll be able to better-select the things to try that I have a chance of liking.

“Real BBQ” – Will Budiaman

Similar structure to the sushi book, being primarily recipes that I skimmed over, but the first couple chapters on the history and general techniques of barbecue were interesting, and there’s a few tips in here that I hadn’t seen before. A useful read, if you’re in a skimming mood!

“Handcrafted Bitters” – Will Budiaman

Only now, in writing this review, do I notice these two are the same author. Probably got them at the same time, then!

Same structure, some overview and techniques and then many recipes. More of a disconnect than the sushi book for me, given that I don’t drink, but again, interesting to read the history and see at least a little bit of what this thing is about. I do like having enough background knowledge on a topic to at least ask interesting questions, and I feel like this got me there.

“Hallucinogenic Plants” – Richard Evans Schultes

This was actually the first of these four that I read; I ended with BBQ, and joked that I’d been in a sequence of three books on topics I have no intention of ever getting much involved in.

Beautifully illustrated, and kinda reminded me of John McPhee at times. An interesting read, although I spent a lot of it wondering how, exactly, the various cultures involved figured these things out. I guess before the invention of writing, “licking random plants to see what would happen” may have been a pretty good form of entertainment?


“You Suck at Cooking”

(Unknown Author)1

Seafood is a marketing term that was invented to convince people that ocean creatures are edible, rather than the stuff nightmares are made of.

This is, I think, the best cookbook I’ve ever read. Which, admittedly, doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but I’ve read a frankly alarming number of cookbooks.2 So trust me when I say that this one is well worth the read. And, indeed, is worth actually reading straight through — though, aside from the introductory chapter, you can use it in the more conventional cookbook manner, and flip through the section you’re interested in at any moment.

Because, here’s the thing: not only is it funny — and of course it was going to be funny, it’s by You Suck at Cooking — it’s also smart. Smart, and clever, and… honest. It’s a masterwork of Being A Millennial, is what it is.

It is also, genuinely, an excellent introduction to cooking. I grew up cooking, so the kitchen holds no fear for me.3 In that regard, I’m not the target demographic of this book. The core audience here are the people who didn’t grow up being taught to cook, the people who might want to figure it out but are facing down a pile of unknown unknowns.4

So, if you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun, or if you don’t know anything about cooking and want a good starting point that’ll remind you you can do this, or you’re looking for some interesting new recipes to try — because there are some of those in there, too! — then I highly recommend this book. Check it out.

  1. I mean, there’s probably enough information about the guy online now that you could figure out who he is, but hey. Don’t be creepy.
  2. Listen, my family has a cookbook-buying problem, and at a certain point we needed to downsize the collection. But we couldn’t just give them away, we had to read them first, and maybe copy down our favorite recipes…
  3. Well, unless you own a mandolin, in which case, I fear the mandolin, as should you.
  4. To take a bit of a tangent, it reminds me of the general reaction to Antoni on the first season of Netflix’s Queer Eye. “Some professional chef, all he taught them was to make guacamole? He’s just there to be eye candy.”
    Well, no, Internet Strawman. What, is he gonna take somebody from “only thing in their fridge is a bottle of ketchup” to making a five-course meal in a week? No. He’s going to start with something basic to take away the “oh god I don’t know what I’m doing,” and (I assume) give them some tips on how to continue learning.