Khao Soi, a famous Laotian noodle dish.

Things We Hate About Cookbooks — From No Recipe List to Untested Recipes

Things we hate about cookbooks include everything from missing recipes and no recipe list to cookbooks that have obviously not been well researched or, at worst, haven’t had their recipes tested.

We love cookbooks. As much as it’s convenient to pull up a recipe on an iPad, we still prefer to page our way through a food-smudged cookbook.

While most of our cookbooks are in storage (I guess some are ‘vintage’ now), we’ve bought or have been given dozens of cookbooks while living in Asia. We put them to good use, too, in our Siem Reap kitchen.

I used to have a career in publishing, running the design and production department of one of Australia’s largest publishing companies, so I know my book anatomy and my recto from my verso — you can look it up, it’s not rude. That means it’s impossible for me to look at a cookbook without a critical eye.

Here are some of the things we hate about cookbooks…

Things We Hate About Cookbooks

When Cookbooks are Vanity Projects

A lot of cookbooks being published across Asia these days are being written by people who think they know enough about writing, photography, editing, and design to put together a book. Mostly they don’t and it’s the vanity project cookbooks designed to raise money for a charity that commit the most crimes against traditional publishing.

And I’m not referring to the Australian cookbook produced for a Battambang-based Australian charity that plagiarised Lara’s writing as well as lifting text from a well-regarded Cambodian cookbook. That was also a vanity project but plagiarism is a crime of a different sort.

The reason I call these vanity project cookbooks is that for all their good intentions, they’re amateurish. For most of those that we’ve read, none of the key players – the writer, photographer, stylist, and editor – would ever get a real book deal for their cookbook.

It’s a vanity project in the sense that people donate their time in return for seeing their name in print. If they really cared about generating funds for the charity they would have declined the invitation to work on the book or wouldn’t have volunteered in the first place.

Quite often it appears that these books don’t make their money back — money that would have been better spent on the actual charitable activity of helping people instead of boosting egos, or hiring a team of professionals with cookbook experience to produce a book that actually sells.

Keep in mind that this is a different scenario to self-publishing where the author invests their own money into getting a print run of their book. It’s also different to using a vanity publisher which is just a scam to flatter an author, make promises that are never kept, and line their pockets with the naive author’s money. Remember: if your manuscript is worth printing in the publisher’s opinion, the publisher will pay you.

When Cookbooks are Incomplete

One of the things we hate about cookbooks is when they’re incomplete. The cost of providing ‘extras’ in a book, such as conversion tables, glossaries and so on, might necessitate the book having an extra eight page section. This makes the book more expensive to print and, in turn, pushes up the number of sales the book requires before it’s profitable.

We understand that, but if you’re dealing with a cuisine that will be introducing ingredients or cooking techniques that will be ‘foreign’ to many readers, you have a duty to help people learn about the cuisine, otherwise, why are you publishing the book?

Cookbooks Without A Recipe List

Another of the things we hate about cookbooks is when they come without a recipe list. Unfortunately, this is increasingly common. I understand that with a cookbook like David Thompson’s Thai Food, with hundreds of recipes, it’s easier to look up a key ingredient to find a dish. That’s true and to David’s publisher’s credit, the index is pretty amazing. More on that later.

However, smaller cookbooks that tend to lump recipes under the key ingredient (fish, pork, chicken, etc) or the course (appetiser, main, etc) don’t appear to think that a recipe list is necessary. Really, it would only take a couple of pages.

But we have a few cookbooks that have no recipe list, no index, and no real front matter (not even a Table of Contents) to even give you a hint as to what page we might find a certain recipe. Clearly no publishing professional came anywhere near these titles during production, even though one cookbook on our shelves is a large hardcover title that would have been very expensive to print.

Cookbooks Without an Index or Poor Indexing

Cookbooks should always have an index — no exceptions — even your expensive, hardcover vanity project title. Cooks who are serious about making a great meal from a cookbook will go to the markets, see what’s fresh, and then decide what dish they want to make.

Found some great chuck steak? When you know that there’s a great beef Massaman curry recipe in a cookbook, you should be able to find it by the key ingredient ‘beef’, but it should also be listed under ‘curries’ and under ‘Massaman curry’. No exceptions.

My theory as to why many cookbooks are being published without an index is that indexing is very time-consuming, exacting, and a specialised skill. It was even more time-consuming before we started using computers to produce manuscripts and layout books. It’s still painstaking and it can only be completed once the book is ready to go to print and the page numbers are locked down.

The same goes for referencing other recipes within the book. It’s something that we’d do at the very last stage — even after indexing. That’s why often with poorly edited books you might spot ‘see page XX’ instead of the actual page number. Because that’s the placeholder ‘number’ we used to use to refer to another page before the book was finally laid out.

It’s such a specialised task that we would send a laid-out manuscript, the text files, and the basic index to a specialised editor who indexed books for a living. It would be returned only needing a quick proofread of the page numbers. It’s important.

Cookbooks with Recipe Omissions

While making a Rendang curry the other day, I discovered that one of the cookbooks I was referencing (I often reference up to three cookbooks to decide on my canonical recipe) stated that you should serve the curry with a style of roti, which was listed in the recipe in italics.

While I at first thought it was lazy that they didn’t put in the referring page where the recipe for the roti was, it turned out there was no recipe for the roti in the book.

Quite often the same goes for sauces and dressings, such as a vinaigrette. Some cookbooks will put all the sauce and dressing recipes together just before the end matter (such as the index, if it has one), but to leave these accompanying recipes out is a crime against cookbooks.

If it’s a well-known chef’s cookbook, his vinaigrette and his béchamel might be very different to another chef’s — and that’s why we’re buying his cookbook, to learn a little about his secrets.

Recipe Names That Aren’t Translated

One of the things we hate about cookbooks — Lara especially loathes this one — is when recipe names haven’t been translated to their original language. A Cambodian dish called “fish in coconut custard”, aside from being a poor description of a dish that is essentially a steamed fish curry, is not going to help someone new to the cuisine who might want to do further research or look for it on a menu when they travel to Cambodia. Is it really so hard to write “Cambodian steamed curry — Amok Trei”?

A poor translation is more helpful than none, but they don’t help cooks who have never tried the dish let alone made it before. If you imagined that amok trei (or fish amok) was going to look like a creamy custard from that description, you might be frustrated to see it starting to resemble something between a mousse and a soufflé.

Recipes That Haven’t Been Tested

Thankfully I know enough about the cuisines I cook to understand the ratios of ingredients that go into a recipe. This is the only thing that stopped me from putting half a bottle of fish sauce into a curry.

Those little typos, such as 125ml instead of 25ml of a sauce, should never get to the final layout of a book. It’s really important to make sure that the final manuscript of the recipes is compared to the original recipes and that they are cooked by a recipe tester one last time.

With the vanity project cookbooks, quite often the recipe is donated to the cause by well-meaning chefs, but the dish is never actually cooked by anyone on the ‘team’, let alone a professional recipe tester. For the actual purpose of a cookbook — having people cook the recipes — to skip this stage is unforgivable.

Cookbooks With Not Enough Photos

Another of the things we hate about cookbooks is insufficient images. The first cookbook I ever purchased was one that I bought after our first trip to Mexico in the mid nineties when I fell in love with the food. That book was The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy.

Part culinary anthropology, part cookbook, it is still very highly regarded to this day. While I was initially disappointed that there were no colour photographs of the finished dishes, I now see the book for what it is — an indispensable reference book for anything to do with Mexican cuisine.

The reason that photos are so important to recipes in cookbooks is that, firstly, they inspire you to cook and, secondly, they give you an idea of what the final outcome (hopefully) should look like. I guarantee that most people who use cookbooks are more inspired to make a recipe when that recipe is accompanied by an inspiring photo.

The only case where photos can intimidate rather than inspire is cookbooks by famous chefs, particularly those whose kitchen resembles a laboratory. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me about cookbook photos and commented how fake they look and that they’d never attempt the dish as it just looks too intimidating.

While it’s true that these dishes can be daunting, for me it’s the amount of preparation time to make those dishes that can be dispiriting, not the presentation. Cooking for a dinner party once where I only used The French Laundry cookbook recipes, meant I had to start prepping a week ahead.

Cookbooks That Have Been Poorly Proofread and Edited

I have to put aside my years as a technical writer and as a travel and food writer when reading most cookbooks in Asia as the editing and proofreading is generally appalling. With the vanity cookbooks, it’s common to find that they might have been written in another language first and then translated, it appears, by good old Google (mis-)Translate.

Proofreading and sub-editing are also exacting tasks. The first sub-editor I ever worked with used to sit in what we used to call a fish-bowl office, quietly reading his technical manuscripts — until he found an error. Then we’d seen him get up and march out of his fishbowl into the main office area, stride over to the offending writer and yell “gotcha!”

If he’d read some of the cookbooks I have over the last few years, he’d be reaching into his desk for a hip flask of whisky before 9am.

If he’d read in a manuscript, for instance, that states “unfortunately, no specific name exists for this plant in French or in English”, he would have sprung to his feet and headed straight to our library. I’d hate to think what he’d do when he discovered, as we realised, that, yes, indeed the plant Boesenbergia rotunda or Boesenbergia pandurata (Roxb.) does have a name in French (petits doigts) and several in English (Chinese keys, fingerroot, lesser galangal).

Not every cookbook needs to comprise — or aspire to undertake — the kind of rigorous research of titles such as The Art of Mexican Cooking or Thai Food by David Thompson. But fact checking and triangulation of data should be at the centre of qualitative research when producing a work of non-fiction, even something as inconsequential as a cookbook. For me, one of the joys of researching a recipe is finding the names and origins of so-called ‘exotic’ ingredients. An inquisitive mind is an essential muscle in doing actual research.

It doesn’t matter if the book is supporting a charity, the publishers are still charging the public the same price for their book as a book produced by professionals, so the cookbook should be produced by professionals.

In this age of digital publishing, anyone can publish a book. That doesn’t mean that they should.

READER GIVEAWAY

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell us what you hate about cookbooks in the Comments below and you could win a copy each of two of our favourite cookbooks, which in our opinion are two of the world’s finest, David Thompson’s Thai Food and Diana Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking. We’d love to know whether (or not) the same things that drive us nuts also bother you. And what have we left out that annoys the **** out of you when you’re in the kitchen or just thumbing through a cookbook on the couch?

This giveaway closes at the end of the month when we’ll ship the two books to one winner. All comments count as entries; the winner will be selected by a random name generator. Winners will be notified by email when we’ll obtain your address for shipping.



There are 23 comments

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  1. Michelle

    I agree with not including enough photos. I can appreciate some cookbooks without any photographs, like Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, or Zarela Martinez’s The Food and Life of Oaxaca, but it is helpful to at least have a hint of what the finished dish should represent and as you say, inspire to cook!

    For me the other thing I hate, is not being able to feel a person’s passion in their cookbook. I gravitate towards cookbooks that are able to tell a story and pull me in. A hint at why the author wrote the book and what inspired them, I want the pages and recipes to reflect that. I think Tessa Kiros, does a fantastic job relaying her message and passion throughout the pages of 10 of her published cookbooks. As well as Naomi Duguid in her book Burma and on her books co-published with Jeffrey Alford. They are able to pull you into a place and sort of allow you travel through the pages and get a glimpse into people, culture and places that are unfamiliar.

  2. Sarah

    Loved your article. My pet peeve is incomplete instructions… so the recipe has called for fish sauce – 25 ml, 125 ml, doesn’t matter if there isn’t any instruction on when or where to incorporate it! So frustrating.

  3. Lara Dunston

    Hi Michelle – thanks so much for your fantastic feedback! Totally agree with you on passion and stories – they really make a great cookbook for us. The Cambodia book we’re working on is as much about the stories as the recipes. I don’t know that Oaxaca book – I will be ordering that one. It was the cuisine of Oaxaca – and Veracruz – on our first trip there that made us fall in love with Mexican food. Thanks for dropping by!

  4. Danielle

    I totally agree about the incomplete instructions! While I can usually figure out what to do with the ingredient, I’d prefer to know the writers’ intent.

    But my biggest pet peeve? Untested recipes. I don’t know how many recipes I’ve made where the pictures are gorgeous, and the dish looks delicious, but just falls flat, lacking in flavor and depth. I consider myself a great cook (who knows…maybe I’m terrible!!) with a good sense of flavor, and nothing is more disappointing than making a recipe, and having it turn out mediocre. Perhaps it is just a matter of taste preference, but I can say there have been many, many recipes I have tried that turn out amazing. I would hope the cookbook authors take the time to make a dish more than once to test the flavors before putting the recipe in print.

  5. Terence Carter

    Hey Danielle,

    I completely agree with you. I know the good recipe writers not only test the recipe multiple times themselves and then get a competent home cook to try the recipe to see if there is anything missing or incomplete.

    I have a friend who is a very well-known chef whose cookbook is riddled with mistakes because they took the canonical restaurant recipes and divided the ingredient amounts down. Whoever did it wasn’t good at math and the final recipes were not tested, because they’re perfect in the restaurant kitchen…

    With dishes lacking in flavour and depth I question what kind of salt the chef was using in the original recipe — some types of salt have stronger trace minerals which can affect flavour. However the biggest problem we find here in South-East Asia is with fish, soy and oyster sauces and how the ‘strength’ of these vary from country to country and between brands. I never add the full amount that’s specified in a recipe until I have a taste and adjust accordingly. I’ve even gone as far as to note the brands of sauces used by each chef and use those in their cooking.

    Thanks for your comment!

  6. Brian Boru

    Indexing shouldn’t be a problem with any modern word processor. Even the ubiquitous MS Word allows you to insert cross-references using “Mark Entry” as you type that will be updated on the fly or at the click of a button, so you don’t have to wait till the page layout is locked down, and there’s no excuse whatsoever for things like “see page xxx”. There are plenty of good tutorials, videos and explanations on how to use the functionality – I suspect most people are simply unaware that it exists. Professional word processing tools can have extremely sophisticated versions of these functions. The real difficulty is knowing what to index and how to reference or name it, and this is where an expert’s knowledge and experience are invaluable. The Society of Indexers is a good starting point if you want more information.

  7. Terence Carter

    Thanks for your comment Brian.

    When I was in publishing we never did any markup in Word — nothing more than italics and bold, so absolutely no indexing. We were using QuarkXPress, PageMaker and then InDesign for layout and simply wanted clean copy and Word is notorious for adding extra code, so we always exported as Rich Text.

    As far as the actual indexing is concerned, we always sent the text and the page layouts to an indexer as I stated in the post. We simply trusted a professional indexer to do a better job than the automatic tools which I recall weren’t all that sophisticated back then. I do remember there were tools, such as QuarkConverter which could take Word index entries and make them work in Quark, but we just didn’t like using it.

    I’m sure it’s much easier these days from a technological point of view, but as you say the hard part is deciding what to index and to what level of detail. Even in books such as David Thompson’s Thai Food, there are plenty of instances where things should have been referenced but aren’t — and that’s in a book that has one of the best indexing jobs I’ve seen…

  8. Kate Roxburgh

    I agree with your comments about indexing. I think publishers should pay for a professional indexer. There’s an excellent book of chicken recipes I own by a prize winning British cookery writer and most of the index entries start with chicken. I kid you not. I spent a wet afternoon making my own index of the recipes I was interested in making.
    I also agree about proof reading errors. I came across a recipe yesterday in another book tipped for prizes this year which had one recipe with 12 eggs in it, when I thought it should be two.
    I don’t think there need to be photos of every dish. Some dishes just aren’t photogenic and it would put up prices immensely. And some of my favourites don’t have any pictures. Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to Eat’, recognised as her best book, doesn’t have any but the writing is excellent. Also Margaret Costa’s ‘Four Seasons Cookbook, another classic, as well as the obvious Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David etc
    I think seasoning is very personal and being a good cook is interpreting the recipe oneself and tasting until it feels right. That said, I know Ottolenghi has his recipes tested rigorously and I have followed some of his recipes pedantically using spices unfamiliar to me in the exact quarter/ half teaspoon quantities and achieved good results.
    My other bugbears include
    – writers who say ‘ I get my lamb from the farm opposite where I can see the lamb gambolling in the fields. ( seen recently in a book I didn’t buy). Yes, provenance is important but I live in the middle of London and in real life, I am picking up something to cook in the week from the supermarket on the way home. Maybe, a specialist butcher at the weekend but greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers have been forced out from my local high street by high rents.
    My pet hate is that style of food photography where you have a spoonful of honey drizzled next to the dish or a trail of cardamom or star anise or strewn sliced lemons on the table. I don’t eat my food in a mess, so I don’t want to see it in food styling.
    Rip off recipes. When you’ve read a lot of cookery books, you can start to recognise where someone has plagiarised someone else’s writing. It’s lazy and boring. I want books that teach and inspire me.
    Books with photographs of the inevitably young and beautiful woman author, or alternatively the handsome, muscly male author sprinkled throughout. I would rather have the illustration budget spent on pictures of the food.
    Baking recipes in American cup measures which cannot be transcribed accurately. Is a cup of ground almonds tightly or loosely packed?
    Finally, and I will say this briefly and calmly instead of indulging in a full scale rant, as it is the issue that I feel most strongly about, -books with non- evidence nutritional information aimed at young women, encouraging them to eat in an unhealthy way.

  9. Terence Carter

    Thanks for you excellent comments Kate.

    I’d like to make a note/clarification about the photography in cook books. I think that there is a place for books about cooking where there are not a lot of photographs or no photography. I sure don’t reference David Thompson’s Thai food for the photos and I’m fine with that. But when my only cookbook of a cuisine that I’m not familiar with doesn’t show me what the finished dish looks like, I go straight to Google to find a photograph, but I’d rather see the dish as intended by the author.

    About how this affects the cost of the book, it’s determined by many factors. The intended audience, the design of and use of photography in competing titles, the number of pages, the number of colour sections and so forth. Although I wasn’t publishing cookbooks, with our travel titles we used to weigh up how colour sections could be used as economically as possible — and quite often a colour section of 8 or 16 pages would be the first thing sacrificed to make a title economically viable.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    The intended audience is so critical. A novice cook looking for some Mexican recipes to impress a boy/girlfriend is not going to leave the book store with The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, but they might leave with a book with a title like ‘Easy Mexican Entertaining’ that has 96 full colour pages and relatively simple recipes without hard-to-get ingredients.

  10. Lara Dunston

    Kate – thank you so much for taking the time to leave such thoughtful comments. Agree on all fronts! With the styling, I don’t mind a sprig of coriander or a chili or three here and there on the table if it’s a Southeast Asian dish, as we tend to make a bit of a mess here in Siem Reap when we go out to eat the traditional noodles and soups and there’s a basket of garnishes that we’re meant to dig into and break up and scatter across our bowl. You might recall our nom banh chok breakfast? But, you’re right, it makes absolutely no sense in most cases. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  11. Divya Desa

    There are so many points I agree with you and on, Terry! In addition to the common pet peeves like weak editing (typos), lack of photos, untested recipes, etc.
    I find it really irritating when the cookbook reads like a machine wrote it – with zero personality. It’s so much more inviting to read (and cook from) when a writer or Chef includes a little anecdote about the dish – whether it’s a personal one, or an origin story. Bonus points for when they add little notes to explain why a certain step is required, or what happens to the dish if you substitute an ingredient.
    It’s very inconvenient when the recipe writer just assumes you know what to do with a couple of the ingredients, and skips out a step or two in the method to make it look shorter.
    In a lot of new cookbooks (I have to kind of echo Kate on this one), there’s also an obsession with sourcing organic/sustainable produce etc., which yes, is good for the environment and your body, but sometimes is just not possible when you live in a city! It can either be impossible to find the right source, or incredibly expensive. I’ve noticed this in Euro/American books, not so much in Asian ones.
    I also find the ’30 minute’ marketed cookbooks really infuriating, because sometimes they fail to mention that it takes ’30 minutes’ only to cook the damn recipe, without taking into account time required for mis-en-place. (There’s a very popular celebrity Chef whose books infuriate me because of this, though I do reference his recipes from time to time, before creating my own version of a dish).
    As far as vanity cookbooks are concerned – I very naively bought one recently at a book-signing by the celebrity Chef; only to find out moments later that she did not in fact author the recipes herself, but paid someone else to curate them. Bummer!
    One last pet peeve – when the book is sold as having really interesting recipes, but after leafing through it you find stupidly simple ones like a watermelon feta salad, and zucchini noodles (both from the vanity cookbook I mentioned above).

    I do love it when there are pictures to illustrate the steps to a dish, and of the finished dish itself. It helps me to visualise the process. One of my other favourite things, is when a writer actually takes the time to visually chart out the ingredients used in the book – especially when they’re lesser known. I have this book called ‘Singapore Cooking’ by Terry Tan & Christopher Tan that’s very detailed and helpful with explaining all the edible elements. Some of my favourite cookbooks are actually really simple compilations, with no fancy celebrity endorsement. 🙂
    I have a whole stack of cookbooks to catch up on – so I’m sure I’ll have more feedback for you when I do!

  12. Terence Carter

    Hey Divya, agree with all your points! That Singapore Cooking cookbook looks good. I like that it has recipes listed under contents, a rundown of common ingredients (with photos) and a solid index. That’s a book I could cook from.

    Thanks for your comment!

  13. Bela

    Have to agree that the lack of photos really annoy me, I tend not to buy them if not all recipes have photos. We also eat with out eyes … yes some big encyclopaedic culinary don’t need photos but for inspiration I need it.
    I’m glad you mentioned about the recipes being wrong, I know I’m not the best cook but when I follow all and measure all often things don’t turn out well and I used to blame it on my cooking skills.
    Oh and I hate all the eat clean books, hate the expression and the all thing around it. It’s important to eat healthy but these books are put together often by young girls with no idea of cooking or nutrition.
    Also this thing about how foraging is cool ask any old Nona and she will teach you a thing or two about eating what’s around you and also what’s in season, is not a new concept, been around for centuries.

  14. Kimmy Ripley

    I just recently fell in love with cookbooks so I am always looking for new cookbooks for my growing collection. My biggest pet peeve about cookbooks is lack of photos! UGH! I would love to see a photo of the finished dish so I can have an idea on how it is to be presented. I download a lot of cookbooks with the Kindle app and they are the worst. Most of the downloadable books have very few photos so I just might quit downloading them.

  15. Lara Dunston

    Hi Kimmy – yes, we agree a lack of photos is frustrating. I also love to see photos of the different herbs and vegetables if it’s a cuisine I’m not familiar with. Thanks for your feedback!

  16. Nicky

    I agree with you on the lack of photos but I equally hate it when what is essentially labeled as a ‘cookbook’ is actually a coffeetable volume of artistically shot foodie pics with only half a dozen decent recipes.

  17. Lara Dunston

    Hi Nicky – great point! I forgot about that genre of cookbook, as we don’t really buy them. But, yes, pretty to look at but what do you do with it after you’ve flicked through it a few times? I’m wondering if those are really aimed at chefs… Thanks for commenting!

  18. Jeanne

    I love cookbooks and will openly admit to owning over 100, from Heston Blumenthal’s “The Big Fat Duck” through to Luke Nguyen’s “My Vietnam”. In saying that some are definitely far more inspirational and user friendly than others. Indexing makes a huge difference to my being able to cross reference recipes across various books and authors and it allows me the opportunity to have my own creative licence over a dish. I find it frustrating when a recipe isn’t clear on quantities or on modalities like chopped ginger or ground ginger, minced garlic, chopped garlic or crushed garlic. The most disappointing thing of all is when you follow a recipe to the letter & the food just tastes lack lustre. Clearly the recipe isn’t tried & true. On the upside I know how to improve it amd make it my own the next time which is exactly what I did with Karen Martini’s family recipe for stuffed capsicums 😃

  19. Lara Dunston

    Hey Bela – great points! I’m agreeing with you on a lot here! If there’s no pic and you’ve never made the dish then you need to go online and do research to see what it looks like, so what’s the point of buying the thing in the first place? And, yes, I think if you’ve followed a recipe to the very gram then you have a right to blame the cookbook 🙂 And completely agree with a lot of these trends. Foraging is a fantastic example – I think Cambodians have been foraging for a couple of thousand years and still do it. When we researched a Calabria guidebook some years ago we would often come across old ladies foraging in the mountains. The locavore movement is another example. I get that it’s important in many countries, especially the USA, where some people seem to have forgotten where produce comes from. And then you have examples such as Singapore and Dubai, where nearly all produce is imported. But, again, in many Mediterranean countries, as you mention, and here in some Southeast Asian countries (not all), they’re mostly buying local produce and cooking with produce from their backyard or their neighbours’ or the village or the neighbouring village. Great points! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  20. Terence Carter

    Thanks for your comment, Jeanne.

    One other thing that has been bugging me is recipes for slow cooked dishes where the recipe writer does not state whether a lid should be on or off when reducing liquid/thickening the stew/sauce. Drives me nuts.

    Another argument that is currently being debated is the use of imperial (tablespoons, teaspoons, cups) over metric units (grams, kilograms) in recipes. I like the precision of using grams/millilitres — although it’s problematic with tiny amounts of spices — but it’s much better for scaling up or down ingredient amounts for bigger or smaller batches of a recipe…

  21. Fee

    I love the history lesson I get with each and every one of your recipes.
    I also feel like I’m getting a little vicarious travel experience at the same time.
    As a busy Mum, I found so many of your recipes quick and easy to follow, allowing me to maintain precious Mum time and to also attempt and enjoy fantastic new meals.

  22. Lara Dunston

    Awww, thank you. The kind words are much appreciated. We think a bit of history provides some important context. It’s something we enjoy when we read other people’s recipes. Have to confess that not all our recipes are easy – especially those borrowed by the likes of David Thompson who loves to use a gazillion ingredients. But they’re worth following for the rich, complex dishes that are the results of such patience and concentration. We have taken a note of the need to mum’s though… something we hadn’t thought of… check back for some simpler mum-friendly Asian recipes.


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