“Dairy Free”

Angela Litzinger

I went through this in two sittings, and sorta split it into the two key components as I was doing so.

The first part is, broadly, the ‘introduction,’ but while there’s a couple pages of usual “introduction to this book” type material, what it really works out to is an introduction to the dairy-free life. And, really, it’s the thing I wish I’d had available when I was just starting to figure out this “if I stop eating any dairy I’ll stop being sick all the time!” thing. There’s a line in there about taking six months to just sorta get used to it and start feeling confident in doing so, and that really struck me, sitting as I am on the other side of that line. Having that reassurance back at the beginning would’ve been helpful, as well as the general tips and tricks on how to do it. Although, admittedly, this is written from the perspective of someone with a severe dairy allergy, whereas I’ve just got a severe cow’s-milk intolerance, so some of the things I can ignore. I don’t need a recipe for a non-dairy goat cheese, both because I don’t actually care for the categorical ‘goat cheese’ taste… and I can just eat actual goat cheese, so long as it’s fully goat and not a blend.

The second part is the recipes, and this is where I played myself, a bit. “I’ll just read a little bit of this before bed,” I thought. Like a fool. Instead of some relaxing browsing to wind down, I instead sat there jotting notes about which recipes I’d like to try and what pages they were on. There was an audible gasp when I got to the ricotta recipe, and when I later got to béchamel I drew an arrow across the page, an excited “lasagne!!!” for emphasis. Because whilst I have mostly gotten used to this whole thing, the process of—to paraphrase the book—mourning the foods I grew up eating and can no longer have would certainly have been easier if there were slightly-higher-effort versions of some of my favorite comfort foods that I can still eat.

So hey, this is a super cool cookbook! If you’ve got a dairy allergy, or intolerance, or want to go vegan but just can’t survive without ice cream or lasagne, check it out.1 There’s a great deal of gluten-free and nut-free variations, too, making it a great resource for anyone trying to maintain an allergy-sensitive kitchen.

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

“The Flavor Bible”

Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg

As it turns out, this book was uniquely ill-suited for an e-reader; this is a book that was written around the concept of being heavily laid out, and it didn’t make it through the process of ePUB-ification very well. Get the print edition, if you’re going to get it—while there’s something to be said, with this format, for searchability, it’s all alphabetized, so the print edition doesn’t lose much that way.

Entertainingly, the thing I kept thinking off all through the book was Pokémon type charts. (Really, go grab that link to see the example, I’m not going to be able to explain this well.) Basically, take a list, repeat it as both the rows and columns of a table, and then throughout the table mark which things go well together and to which degree. A very small example, off the top of my head:

Balsamic Vinegar Chocolate Strawberries Zucchini
Balsamic Vinegar x ★ ★
Chocolate x ★ ★
Strawberries ★ ★ ★ ★ x
Zucchini x

That’s kinda what the book is, on a much larger scale. Look up an ingredient, see a couple quick facts about it, where it falls in some broad categories, maybe a few recipe ideas and some anecdotes from chefs… and then get a list of which things it works well with.

Honestly, I think this would make a pretty good coffee-table book, and a useful reference if you’ve got one ingredient in mind and want some inspiration for what to make using it. Check it out.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

“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.

“What Einstein Told His Cook”

Robert L Wolke

In my mind, the term for this genre is “popular science.” Or, possibly, “pop science.” (In this case, that’s also a pun on the subject.) Either way, it feels like a fun piece of beach reading – worth the time to read, which differentiates it from an airplane read,1 but not so heavy that you feel like you should be taking notes or pausing to take time to process.

For the most part, this book stands up pretty well, and the cover is minimal enough that the whole thing feels quite modern. Admittedly, it loses some of this with the occasional dated pop culture reference, and the final chapter, discussing the latest technologies, noticeably lags as a result of being, dear lord, almost two decades out of date.2

Still, though, it’s not like chemistry changes all that rapidly, and a lot of the explanations of how things work were quite neat. Give it a read.

  1. For my own ‘pop science’ injection: despite their pressurized interiors, the amount of oxygen in the cabin of a plane is lower than what your brain is used to, so as the flight goes on, you get a little oxygen-deprived, leaving your thoughts nice and fuzzy. There’s a reason Clive Cussler books are the ideal airplane books – they’re incredibly formulaic, so there’s less cognitive load.
  2. There’s a very serious discussion of the differences between mechanical and digital cooking thermometers, which is downright comical in the age of RFID-tagged disposable cups.