Friday, September 29, 2006
A new cookbook. Or three.
Popular Swedish chef and restaurateur Melker Andersson runs four restaurants now. (F12, Restaurangen, Grill and Kungsholmen.) All are very successful. On Wednesday, I was at the release for his new cookbooks. Or well, his restaurants' cookbooks. The recipes come from him and the three head chefs, and the rest of the books are filled with tidbits and articles written by a plethora of different writers. Articles? Yes - these books are quite different. They're more like thick, glossy magazines - with food. Interesting concept. Interesting cookbooks? Well.
I have to be honest. I'm not blown away. The three cookbooks are quite similar - one is called Oas (Oasis), one is Eld (Fire) and the last is Smak (Flavour). Oas is twice as thick as the others, by the way. And it's the one I've read most thoroughly so far. I do like the concept, I really do. And the recipes are interesting. Many of the pictures are beautiful.
But many are not. Many are standard stock photos, not so much for the food but for the articles. And the articles themselves seem *very* random. An example: a checklist for a successful wedding, including tips like "make sure you choose an entertaining toastmaster". Err, yes. Thanks.
The recipes are poorly written. (I don't know if I have a a pre-copy, I hope so and I hope that someone will send the thing through spell-check before properly released.) There are ingredients that you won't be told what to do with - or even explained. Many of them have no points on assembly - when clearly, assembly is a key, if you look at the photos. Many will leave you hanging half way. Or have instructions starting with something immediate, followed by something you should have made the night before. They're not in order. And if you're not used to complicated recipes - they're just confusing. But in all fairness, this comment is mostly for the recipes in Oas. The other ones, at a glance, seem a bit better in this respect. Still, it gives a hurried, un-thought through impression. Not at all what I expected from this group of cooks.
And the tidbits. Come on. This is an advanced cookbook. (Or set of cookbooks.) Or at least the recipes are. There's ice, jelly or foam in just about every recipe. Deconstructed and reconstructed dishes. Exciting stuff! So why not use the space for notes, tidbits and articles on something related and NOT on "choose a good chef's knife, you'll be happy!" or my favorite "with a cold enough fridge you can keep fresh fish for up to a week!". (and um, eww at that one. Who would want to?)
I would have loved to see an article on lardo for instance, which is used in quite a few recipes. (And dismissed with an explanation that it's the fat off cured pork products, like parma ham. Which is very much simplyfying it.) And it'd have been great to learn more about techniques, and tools. Now, things are just tossed into the recipes. Often special tools are requested that I don't even know where to find.
Sorry, this is perhaps a bit harsh. I do like the food itself. (Hey, the food we got at the release party was absolutely top-notch!) A high point is some of the beautiful photography - the exhibition of women with raw food on them (a meat dress, a fish dress etc) are stunning. I do like that the books are done in a new and different concept, and with advanced recipes. I just think that it's not very well followed-through. It could have been so much better. And well, I'm sure the authors are thinking about their very unique restaurants and that that needs to be taken into account - but for me, I want a book that can stand on its own.
Anyway. If you want to buy the books, I heartily recommend online store Adlibris which has the books at almost half of recommended retail price. Here's the whole set, Eld, Oas and Smak. Oh, and maybe pointing out the obvious here - but sorry, the books are in Swedish, for all you English-speakers out there.