Book Review

Cook Food-a Manualfesto

By - Apr 11th, 2010 04:00 am
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In the past few years we’ve been bombarded with messages about eating organic food and shopping local farmer’s markets. Vegan and vegetarian cookbooks dot our bookstore shelves. And we only need to walk around to find out what overly processed foods are doing to our waistlines and our health. All this information can be overwhelming. Where do we start in improving our food choices?

Thank goodness for Lisa Jervis’ Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating (PM Press).

Jervis is like your best foodie friend guiding you in the kitchen. In the first half of the book, she discusses the importance of eating local foods and embracing a meatless diet and manages to do so without getting preachy. She seems to understand that not everyone has access to farmers’ markets, and some people can’t give up an occasional burger. She also tells the reader the kitchen equipment and ingredients they should have on hand. Most of us probably have a majority of these things in our kitchens already, and the rest aren’t hard to find.

Manualfesto also gives tips and techniques for cooking. Confused about sautéing, steaming and blanching? Jervis tells you how to use these methods in a way that is easy to follow. She also discusses things like adding spices and herbs (both dried and fresh) to your dishes, plus how to brown, deglaze and prepare tofu and the easiest way to peel garlic.

Now we get to the fun part, the recipes. I feared they would be flavorless and bland but just reading them made my mouth water. Spices and herbs play a big part in the recipes, and Jervis allows for a lot of flexibility to suit your taste buds. I can’t wait for sweet corn to come into season so I can make the corn and tomato salad, and the spicy brownies recipe sounds heavenly. I did try the lentils with wine. It was very simple and didn’t require a bunch of esoteric ingredients. The result? Delicious! It’s a recipe I’ll use again and again.

Jervis also provides helpful resources for  everything from vegan cooking, food politics and social issues to  gardening, local farming and activism (including a shout-out to Milwaukee’s very own Growing Power).

Jervis’ writing style is very engaging and down-to-earth. She never lectures, but only inspires. Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating is the perfect primer for both budding foodies and experienced gourmands alike.

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