Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Book Give-a-Way: The Italian Lover

With all the dozens of book give-a-ways hosted by generous book bloggers, I don't usually keep track or get involved. But I want a copy of The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga and Luanne at A Bookworm's World is giving away five copies of it. I get an extra entry if I post something on my blog. Shameless. Leave a comment here on A Bookworm's World if you want to enter the contest. Not that I want the competition . . . The Italian Lover is Hellenga's sequel to The Sixteen Pleasures, a marvelous book about a young American book restorer who, while in Florence rescuing books after a flood, finds a long lost volume of 16th Century erotica. I can't wait.

Cookbook Library: The Amish Cook at Home

So I admit, my initial reaction to seeing The Amish Cook at Home was the culturally insensitive question, “Where else would they cook?” It’s not like there is an Amish restaurant on every corner. The introduction clarified that this is not a book about the Amish people cooking, it is a book featuring the recipes of one particular Amish cook, Lovina Eicher, who writes a newspaper column called The Amish Cook. Ahhhh . . . now I get it.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, which I read cover to cover. I liked the whole idea of the seasonal cooking (sort of like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle but without the lecturing), the stories about the family and their traditions are interesting, and the pictures are absolutely beautiful.

But the recipes themselves were a little disappointing. They may be authentic, but they are pretty pedestrian – the standard Midwest recipes you find in every church auxiliary cookbook. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I also have The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook – as well as a dozen church auxiliary cookbooks – that I turn to often for recipes I remember from my Nebraska childhood. But the Beverly Lewis book does not oversell itself. The Amish Cook, on the other hand, is over-sized and all fancy like a coffee table book, with glossy pages and evocative, soft-filter pictures.

The clash between the slick packaging and everyday recipes like pea and ham salad with Miracle Whip was too jarring for me – like seeing a beautiful bride wearing Nikes with her wedding dress.

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