Home Cooking

Cookbook for Frugal Cooks - Three Reviews

lupaglupa | May 13, 200806:18 AM

If the number of replies to my thread on recession cuisine and several other similar threads recently is any indicator there's a real interest in learning how to stretch a dollar in the kitchen. Several people suggested cookbooks with tips for frugal cooks so I borrowed three from the library: here are the reviews. I did not review any of the 'ethnic' cookbooks that were suggested, although they have lots of good ideas - the cost savings there are more intrinsic to the cuisine and less about active attempts to save money (not that that's bad!).

The 'grandmama' of them all is MFK Fisher's "How to Cook a Wolf." Fisher, an American who spent a lot of time living in Europe, wrote the book during the beginning of the Second World War. The book is well worth a read for its saucy tone and witty asides as much as for its cooking advice. While much of what Fisher writes is dated, her attitude of culinary bravado in the face of hard times is infectious. The book contains few recipes, some advice and many charming essays. There are interesting ideas about saving money on energy use in the kitchen and on saving on pet food which I didn't see other places. It won't serve as the practical guide for modern cooks looking for direct hints about cost cutting but is still a great read and I highly recomend it.

More-With-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre dates from the 1970's, with a few revisions in a reissued 25th anniversary edition. The book was done by the Mennonite Church and most of the recipes are from Mennonite cooks. Overall the book has a seventies feel (if you shudder at the thought of Diet for a Small Planet this is not the book for you). The book, which includes Bible passages and spiritual quotes, was done as a response to the world food crisis and is geared towards eating less as a solution to world hunger. Not surprisingly, many of the recipes are geared towards reducing meat consumption and usie non-meat protein sources. The recipes are mostly for 'typical' American dishes, with a few 'foreign' recipes. Though not adapted for the modern American kitchen, the book has a lot of solid information: good basic hints on storing food, using leftovers and making basic foods at home.

Cheap.Fast.Good by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross is the most recent of the three books I read, published in 2005. I admit I started out with a bias against the book, as Mills and Ross are the team behind Desperation Dinners. But overall I think this is a good, helpful book. It's quite long (almost 500 pages) and contains loads of recipes and suggestions for saving money at the grocery store and in the kitchen. It would be especially useful for a cook who presently relies a great deal on prepared foods and who needs to learn basic frugal cooking strategies (like making broth and cooking large amounts for freezing). The recipes are varied and many are written for working parents who don't have a lot of time to make dinner.

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