A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Welcome to our new series highlighting cookbooks in the Thomas Ford Memorial Library collection. Each week we will review a cookbook that offers helpful hints or great ideas. Some of the cookbooks may simplify your meal planning and preparation, while others might challenge you to expand your offerings and impress your guests. We promise a variety of cuisines and hope you find the series helpful and entertaining.
The easiest answer is “a beautiful one.” In the midst of the cooking blog boom, this is a book featuring traditional fare, but all photographed and documented in the style of contemporary food blogs. The beauty of the book is what drew me to it to begin with, but inside the recipes focus on simple food simply made, with a focus on high quality ingredients and creating a meal out of its parts. The author is Spanish, and many of the meals included are very similar to those my host mother in Spain served while I was on Foreign Study in college.
Is this cookbook easy to use?
Yes! This book is a joy to use. Each step along the way is photographed, so you never need to guess at how thin the peppers should be sliced or how brown the cookies should be when they’re done. Also included is a planning timeline, so you can see when to do each step and how much time the entire meal will take to complete, along with a lovely photograph of the raw ingredients as well as the finished product.
Can you easily buy the ingredients for the recipes?
Some may require an extra trip to the store, and some will be tough to find around here. But by and large the ingredients or a substitute can be found at a full grocery. The author segments the grocery list for ease of use into sections like “in the pantry” and “buy fresh.”
What is special about this cookbook?
The author of the book was the chef at El Bulli, called one of the best restaurants in the world, and was an innovator in molecular gastronomy, using foams and scents to enhance the dining experience, yet the cookbook is focused not on innovation, but tradition. These are the meals he would feed to his staff before service began each day. These “family meals” are scaled in the book for as few as two or as many as 75 people, so the home cook can adapt to the group to be served. Also, this book is unique in how it presents the recipes. Each is part of a complete meal, consisting of a starter, a main course, and a sweet to finish. Of course each could be made alone, but it’s fun to replicate a complete meal!
This beautiful book is new to me, but my family and I really enjoyed the pork loin with roasted red peppers, a potato chip omelette (similar to Spanish Tortilla) and coconut macaroons. I was skeptical of my ability to prepare a three course meal with two toddlers underfoot, but it came off without a hitch! (Well, maybe there were a few hitches, but they weren’t the fault of The Family Meal.)
Review by Heather