Cookbook Review: How to be a Domestic Goddess

How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Food by Nigella Lawson

First of all, I have to say this - this woman is nuts! She may be a great cook and a very nice person, I don't know, but honestly, she is nuts.

This book, in case you couldn't tell right away, is about baking. She sets it up in several categories: cakes, cookies, bread, pies, Christmas, etc. The pictures are wonderful. But the writing? Wow. It's hard to tell you just how bad it is. So here's an example.

"Coconut Macaroons. These are a very English kind of macaroon, the sort you always used to see displayed in bakers' shops alongside the madeleines (those sponge castles dipped in luminous strawberry jam and dredged in throat-catching grated coconut, and so very different from those that inflamed the memory of Marcel Proust). The difference with coconut macaroons is that you need neither to be ironic or self-consciously retro-cool to enjoy them."

What?

I have SO many problems with this paragraph. First of all, I am reading a cookbook. I do not need references to Marcel Proust. Second, don't just assume I am English. I'm not. I have no idea what you are talking about. Third, I have never in my life worried about being ironic when I ate a cookie. (My daughter wondered if perhaps she referred to the IRON CONTENT of the cookie. But no.) And finally, I don't have any idea what 'self-consciously retro-cool' means.

So the writing is bad. Horrible. But if the recipes were good, you could just skip the writing and get straight to the recipes. Well, the recipes aren't bad exactly, but every recipe assumes that you already know what she's talking about. She doesn't explain things for a beginner.

Then there are some rather weird recipes. I don't plan on ever making persimmon or passionfruit curd. And I definitely will not touch a gin and tonic gelatin mold. Several of the recipes, most, in fact, call for ingredients that I would have a hard time tracking down. Like rosewater and some specialty jams. She also uses special equipment, but doesn't give you a picture of it or really describe well how to use it. I know most English cooks know what a pudding basin is. I don't.

And then I am never, ever going to make lavender milk. (You know, get a bowl of milk, put 5-6 lavender sprigs in it, boil, then strain. Yeah.) She skipped an important step there - make sure the lavender in question is pesticide free and has been washed thoroughly. But really, where am I going to find lavender sprigs?

This was without question the most self-important, preciously droll cookbook I have ever read. Wait, is that too close to self-consciously retro-cool? Maybe I should have said vain and complacent. Either way, I would not recommend reading it at all. I've never seen the author's show or read any of her other cookbooks, but after reading this, I heard from a relative that she is just the same on her show. Maybe that appeals to someone. Maybe it's meant to be funny and I just don't get it. But it was just awful.

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