Thursday, January 29, 2015

Polish Cook Books 101 - Picking Your Next Favorite!

We have a lot of cook books in our house, including all of the better Polish recipe books sold on Amazon from the past 25 years.  Laura is a dedicated collector and has never met a cookbook she doesn’t like!  Well, that’s not quite true…she has her favorites and also her share of duds, seldom to be opened a second time.  The favorites can be spotted right away by the dog eared pages and the food stains all over the recipes.  You’ve got a few like that, right?

If you’re not a collector, or maybe you don’t cook so much, or you can’t read your Mom’s notes on those old index cards, or your “go-to” Polish cook book is 50 years old and falling apart, then you should read on…because this post is all about how Laura’s picks a great cook book – one to which she’ll return over and over again.   

1 – No E-Books – while we love our “his and hers” Kindles, that e-books are too hard to read (and keep clean) in the kitchen! And if it falls in a sink full of dirty dishwater, your goose is cooked – literally!  

2 – Pick books with great photos – lots of them!  Not only does that make the book more fun, but the right images will show you how the dish is supposed to look when finished.

3 – Pick books that are “reader-friendly” – is the type size easy to read?  Are the ingredients and measurements organized in some intuitive way?  Are the directions clear and understandable?  Does the author include hints, tips or notes that will help you execute the dish properly? 

4 – Pick books with a variety of organized recipes - your book should cover several courses of a basic meal and maybe several special meals, i.e. holidays.  There are thousands of books that only deal with a very small slice of food, i.e. only Sunday brunch, or only vegetables, or only pork, or only wine-enhanced recipes…so be sure the niche is not too narrow.  It’s great to explore in depth a narrow slice of a meal, or a small perspective, but those books always have to be supplemented with other books – just to round out the meal.   

5 – Pick books that match your skill level - does the book start with a lesson in hard boiling eggs for the novice cook, or do the recipes require 30 hard-to-find ingredients, 30 prep steps or 30 days to execute?  Those may be interesting to read but not very practical.  Most classic dishes of any culture can usually be prepared in several styles, ranging from the ridiculously complex approach that a professional chef might take, or a simpler process that is more appropriate for most of us.  And oh yeah…try to make sure the recipes have been tested…too many recipes are just “invented” and end up in the compost bin because they just don’t work. 

Our two classic books meet all these criteria, plus you can get them personally dedicated and signed by the authors.  That makes them even more appreciated as a gift or for your special “go-to” collection. And if you see us at one of this summer’s heritage festivals, be sure to bring your phone and we’ll do a selfie. 

There are more than 40 Polish books available on line, but if you go past the cover page, you’ll discover that many were written in Europe and translated into English – which is risky for our modern kitchens.  Or they were written a quarter century ago.  Or they were written with the authors’  “creative spin” - so they no longer look, smell or taste like what our Moms or Babcias made.   Just to be clear, our books were specifically written for anyone who wants to preserve our culinary heritage and enjoy the dishes the way they were made by countless generations that came before us.   

So if you’re looking to round out your collection with two winners, or if you have a gifting occasion coming up, just click on the "Add to the Cart" button and in the PayPal Instructions box, be sure to tell us to whom we can dedicate your books.  Smacznego!   

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