In the case of Twenty Dinners, I think having some context about me, the reviewer, is important. The first meal I prepared was macaroni and cheese from a box. My English teacher Mathew had hired me to babysit his three-year-old son Sam. I called my dad for help because the little cartoons of water-filled pots and butter seemed daunting. In the nearly 20 years between then and now, not very much about my culinary prowess has changed.
Twenty Dinners enticed me with the allure of meals even I could make. I embraced it, and the authors' laid back style, certain I would set down the cook book ready to roast a duck and caramelize some onions. That hasn't happened yet, but Twenty Dinners will definitely be my go-to resource when it does. As for now, I feel like I'm an uncharacteristically difficult guest in the authors' Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor's kitchen, denying their insistence that I help with my wry smile and a sip of spiked apple crisp. This is not so much their shortcoming though as it is mine. When it comes to the kitchen, I'm just a tough nut to crack, but I would at least find a beautiful bowl for the cherries which star on page 159.
There is something inspiring about how Twenty Dinners juxtaposes the super simple cherry-filled bowl with seemingly more complex crisp soft-shelled crabs. I think the intended message is simple: Creating good food is easy; give it a try! Inspired by the seasons, each of the 20 featured meals contains a handful of dishes which could stand alone in many cases. The book also entails detailed guides about stocking a home bar, purchasing basic kitchen resources and understanding key cooking concepts and terminology. The photography feels both nostalgic and hip, inducing a pleasant sense of calm.
To the best of my knowledge, Twenty Dinners presents dishes which are easily customized and which appeal to a variety of taste preferences. The meals move fluidly between traditional meat and potatoes style preparations, to exotic seafood , to everyday vegetarian fair. I would recommend it to people seeking an informative kitchen staple from the point of view of someone other than the typical chef.
Please note: I received this book from Blogging for Books to review.