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Cooking Beyond Measureby Jean Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
Cooking Beyond Measure invites busy people to leave their measuring cups behind and take back their kitchens. With a pinch of this and bit of that, food writer and cultural historian, Jean Johnson, offers middle ground between "doing the equivalent of a small chemistry experiment and consuming more ready-to-eat food than our health and wealth can afford."
"In Beyond Measure I suggest that formal recipes with precise measurements and step-by-step directions are a key reason we schlep off to the land of crinkly packages," Johnson says. "The good news is that people are as ready for change in their kitchens as they are in the political arena."
As David Kamp wrote in his closing to The United States of Arugula, "The foodie sophisticates need to lose their smugness and patronizing tone. The junk food and diet food people need to learn that natural and gourmet foods need not be flavorless."
"This odd recipe collection from culinary historian Johnson feels more like a conversation with a quirky cooking enthusiast than a full-fledged cookbook. Instead of using the traditional recipe format-lists of ingredients followed by detailed instructions on what to do with them-Johnson relies on 'recipe notes,' wherein she lays out the basic gist, and follows up with 'details,' in which she riffs on the recipe, its invention, or anything else that strikes her fancy. Most of the dishes she includes are vegetarian, healthy, and so basic they could be constructed by a third-grader: Dog Days Supper, for instance, involves piling a plate with tomatoes, cucumbers, quinoa and basil, and dumping some hummus in the middle. Other recipes require a slightly more comprehensive skill set, such as a tempting Minestrone with Millet and summery Snap Beans with Pesto. Unfortunately, too many dishes are either profoundly unappealing (a vegetable-thickened Peanut Butter and Jelly Soup) or frustratingly vague: cooking instructions for Double Treatment Salmon, for instance, are to 'run under the broiler until gorgeous.' Nevertheless, the author's chatty warmth and clear enthusiasm for whipping up unconventional treats makes this cookbook fun to flip through, if not necessarily tempting to cook from." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"For the past century readers of cookbooks have been admonished by recipes in a format that demands scientific precision of ingredients, strict cooking times and temperatures, and procedures from which one must not veer for fear of unavoidable distaster. And the result? Timorous cooks quivering at instructions, clinging to the absurd idea that the kitchen is a laboratory. From such works cooks ultimately learn little about the creative process and elan which is an indispensible part of all good cuisine. Jean Johnson has written a cookbook that flies in the face of received culinary wisdom. Gone are measurements, gone is the tight-laced tone and prescriptive lists of ingredients. Here is a book from which one can actually learn how to cook. Illustrated with lush photos and witty advice, the recipes are a pleasure to read, in simple instructive prose. And they sound delicious. I cannot wait to try them. We can only hope Cooking Beyond Measure starts a new trend in food writing." Kenneth Albala, Professor of History, University of the Pacific, Food Writer, Co-Editor of the Journal for the Study of Food and Society
"Jean Johnson brings an experienced and sophisticated eye to cooking, and passes on her wisdom in her new book, Cooking Beyond Measure. She shows us that by selecting fresh and wholesome ingredients we can produce delicious food without having to fall back on the rigid instructions found in most cookbooks. Johnson inspires us to get comfortable with food so that we can quickly put together dishes with ease and avoid the need to fill up on fast food and other less healthy fare." Barbara Haber, Food Historian (Haber built Harvard’s 16,000 volume cookbook collection at the Schlesinger Library)
"Cooking Beyond Measure takes cues from busy everyday cooks in cultures around the world and offers sustainable, measure free approaches to cooking." Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian Magazine
This title is about the simple, healthy, thrifty, green kitchen-but it takes this timely message one step further: There are no measurements or prescriptive directions. This is a cookbook that's more like kitchen companion for thrifty everyday cooks. Jean Johnson, food historian turned cookbook writer, questions SAD (the Standard American Diet). In addition to Michael Pollan's Big Food, she targets Big Cooking. Why should the elite chefs have all the fun? This is just easy everyday cooking. The same food women have been making around the world for centuries-without putting reading glasses on The pages of Cooking Beyond Measure are filled with poetry. Lines like paprika with its come hither red sass, and using enough cheese to melt your heart. Yet, under the light-hearted prose lies a radical message: the small chemistry experiment approach to cooking is a key reason we schlep off to the land of crinkly packages--a spendy place that is often unhealthy.Johnson's solution? Leave your measuring cups behind and take back your
About the Author
Jean Johnson has ten years experience as a free lance writer, a doctorate in cultural history, and a passion for food. She came of age in the late-1960s and has cooked and gardened since, but aside from a stint as a pastry chef apprentice, she hails from outside the official food establishment. Rather Johnson's grounding in the cultural history of America has given her the perspective to suggest there are other ways to cook than via measured formats.
"We've had only five generations since Americans started using measuring tools and formal recipes," she says. "That's not that long in the greater scheme of things. While formal recipes can be helpful for special dinners and pastries, I think they are a key reason so many of us have become alienated from the art of home cooking. The toll that it's taken on our health and pocketbooks — not to mention our quality of life — is unfortunate."
An educator of thirty years from elementary to university, Johnson has a record of community and professional speaking. Her free lance articles have been published in national and regional publications including: the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian Magazine, E/The Environmental Magazine, Diabetes Health, Caring Today, The (Portland) Oregonian, and The Arizona Republic.
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