Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Book Review - Episode 1

You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free!, by Roben Ryberg:



I'm going to start a (I hope) weekly gluten-free cookbook review, and thought I'd begin at the beginning:  The first gluten-free cookbook my mother bought for me when I initially put my daughters on a gluten-free diet trial. You can tell by the cover that it's seen some hard use in the kitchen, and hence, I can say a few things about it.

As an introduction to a gluten-free lifestyle, this book serves fairly well.  Roben starts with an introduction to gluten-free cooking and description of her preferred ingredients.  While I've come to disagree with a lot of her opinions on these, that IS opinion, after all.  It must also be noted that the book was published in 2008, and the introduction of gluten-free products since that time can best be described as a torrent!

The book is organized by chapters that cover appetizers, meat dishes, fish dishes, and many varieties of baked goods.  This makes it useful when you want to make something specific.  Roben has gone the extra mile, often providing multiple variations on a dish using various flours - something exceedingly helpful when accommodating multiple sensitivities.  She also provides honest head notes to clue the reader in to those recipes that might have an unexpected appearance or performance.

Outside of the baking chapters, many of the recipes are for things that are gluten-free by their very nature (apple sauce, poached pears, Cornish hens, cucumber salad).  While they are, in fact, gluten-free, they are inherently no different from recipes in a standard cookbook.  It does serve to have a full complement of recipes in one collection so that no assessment of whether a given recipe from a standard cookbook is or is not gluten-free.  But it also makes the cookbook look somewhat more in depth than it is, in a way.

Most of the recipes work quite well - or at least as promised in the headnotes.  I find myself reaching for this book less and less as I get more adept at converting recipes, but it's still filled with useful tidbits.  What it doesn't have are any pictures at all, or any sort of narrative.  Now, that isn't it's purpose - which is to provide an entire diet's worth of recipes for those with a gluten sensitivity.  But I'm a cookbook addict - most of the time.  And I can wrap myself in a chair with an appropriately attractive, warmly written tome.

All in all, I would characterize this book as informational, but not inspirational.  It is more a part of my "cooking reference" collection than one of the cookbooks a treasure for the pure joy of being a foodie.  Buy it, refer to it - but you really can't cuddle up to it.

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