Newest Review: ... challenging and time-consuming. But I quite enjoy all that! So I would say that this book might be a bit on the involved side for some c... more
My favourite Jamie so far
Jamie's America - Jamie Oliver
Member Name: redhead78
Jamie's America - Jamie Oliver
Advantages: Beautiful book with stunning photography, nice recipes
Disadvantages: You can't eat photographs! Long ingredient lists, difficult to follow methods
I've been after a "proper" American cookbook for a while, one filled with recipes for the food you eat when you're over there, diner recipes, burger recipes, breakfast recipes...basically a book filled with lots and lots of calories! I've been searching on and off on Amazon.com for a while and have marked a few possibilities but hadn't considered looking towards an English chef for an American cookbook - until, that is, I stumbled across Jamie's America in the food section at my local library. Intrigued to see what it would be like I took it out and have since renewed it twice because I'm just not ready to part with it yet!
It is a now typical "cheffy" hardbacked cookbook. Smaller than a piece of A4 paper - just - and very thick with over 350 pages. It's quite weighty (and if I'm honest a very small part of why I haven't taken it back to the library yet it because I don't want to have to carry such a heavy book all that way - I'm on a walk or cycle everywhere less than 5 miles away at the moment!) and cannot be mistaken for anything other than a Jamie Oliver cookbook (and a Jamie Oliver American cookbook at that) as the front cover is dominated by an American flag and a picture of Jamie himself, looking typicall relaxed and casual.
For anyone that's been living on another planet for the last 15 years, Jamie Oliver is a television chef who started his cooking career in his parents Essex pub. With a reputation as a cheeky chappy, down to earth, easy to follow chef he has built his name (and fortune!) based around his now numerous television series, all with accompanying book. I generally like his style but he's never been on my list of "must watch" chefs and so I've missed many of his series. I assume that there was a series to accompany this book too, but never saw it myself.
Anyway, back to the book. It is laid out slightly differently to most cookbooks you see as it is divided geographically into areas of the United States rather than by course, ingredient or food type. A full list of the different sections is:
- Welcome (introduction - a brief note about America, American food and the areas that he visited)
- New York (eg, waldorf salad, pizza, cheesecake, cupcakes, macaroni and cheese)
- Louisiana (eg, red beans and pork, cajun rice, jambalaya, gumbo, sweet potato pie)
- Arizona (eg, chilli cheese cornbread, navajo flatbreads, tortilla soup, green chilli, peach cobbler)
- Los Angeles (eg, mexican salad, , steak, chocolate mole tart, rocky road,
- Georgia (eg, turkey stew, crab ball, peach ice cream, colalrd greens, turnip and pork, fried chicken, BBQ)
- Wildwest (eg, baked beans, mountain meatballs, cornish cowboy pasties, chilli, apple pancakes)
For me this is really not a helpful way of laying out a cookbook unless you were planning a themed dinner based around a particular area (eg, a wildwest night, or a deep south dinner). Initially I thought it would be quite a good way of dividing a cookbook but as I read further into it I realised it wasn't at all to my liking. It makes it very difficult to find a particular recipe, unless you know the name of it and can look in the index, and even when you're in the right section it is still difficult to find a recipe as they're not laid out in any logical order. Breakfasts, dinners, lunches and side dishes are all mixed together randomly and so it doesn't, for me, make for a relaxing trawl through a cookbook to find the recipes you might like to try. Each section has a brief introduction to the food of that area but it would have been incredibly helpful were it to also have a contents page for each section too.
The sections are sometimes subdivided as well so in the New York section there is also a part on Jewish recipes, china town recipes and Egyptian recipes, which is a nice touch but again, they are all jumbled up with no thought given to separating them into easy to find categories.
The recipes themselves are exactly what you'd expect from Jamie - tempting, mouthwatering and accompanied by beautiful, flattering photography. However, despite many of them appealing to both myself and my husband I haven't actually been tempted to try many of them. Unfortunately, for me, the recipes are written much like Jamie's actual speaking style so the methods, rather than being conside and to the point, tend to ramble as though they're actually being spoken and so are much more difficult to follow. The vast majority of the ones I'd be tempted by also have quite long lists of ingredients and, whilst this wouldn't normally be a problem for me as I really enjoy cooking and consider myself to be quite competent in the kitchen, when combined with the long-winded methods it makes the task of cooking the recipes quite a daunting one.
Things I do like about the recipes, however, are that each one comes with a little introduction or brief description , tells you how many people it serves and also, when appropriate, provides an accompanying wine suggestion. With such long ingredient lists and off-putting methods though, a time guide as to how long it will take to prepare and cook would have been an extremely useful addition.
So far I have tried the macaroni and cheese, red velvet cupcakes, down 'n' dirty cajun rice, chilli cheese cornbread and the peach cobbler. To give Jamie his due, all of them were delicious and went down well with both myself and hubby. The ingredients used were all relatively easy to find and if he ever does use something that is more traditionally American he gives an English alternative to save you trawling the internet and spending vast amounts of money for a special type of bacon or fish. But, unfortunately, the methods were as hard to follow as I had anticipated. Well, not exactly hard to follow but they are very convoluted and you often feel like you're hvaing to read an essay to find out what you should be doing next.
For me this is a very difficult book to rate. As a cookbook it really is beautifully done and no expense has been spared (hence the hefty price tag of £26, definitely one to look out for on offer if it's one that appeals to you!) both regarding the overall quality and feel of it and the photography used. Not only are there delicious looking pictures of the dishes, but there are also some stunning landscape images and candid images of people he met on his travels there. For ease of use and frequency of use, however, it is much less appealing. Despite now having had it out from the library for around 8 weeks it is definitely not a book I would now go on to buy myself and I don't think I'd get it out of the library again either.
The recipes that I've tried have all been nice, but not nice enough to warrant the price tag or to make up for the long methods and ingredients list. So whilst it is definitely a cookbook with style, unfortunately, for me, the substance is considerably lacking. There are some lovely looking recipes in Jamie's America but it wouldn't fill the gap on my kitchen shelf for an American cookbook and it is not an easy book to navigate around either. For these reasons, I thik it will have to be an average 3* from me. Sorry Jamie, whilst your style might be good to watch on tv it's much more difficult to follow in written form.
Summary: A beautiful book, unfortunately more style than substance