(Chelsea Update is thrilled to welcome another new column to its line-up. Members of the Chelsea District Library staff will be writing books reviews to let readers know about some of their favorite titles. The first is by Sara Wedell, head of adult services.)
You don’t expect a cookbook to make you laugh out loud, but that’s exactly what Jennifer Reese‘s Make the Bread, Buy the Butter did to me. Reese is a practical homemaker, humorous writer, and a daredevil in the kitchen.
Inspired by the discovery that frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a thing that exist, she launches a “make it or buy it” examination of foods from butter to vanilla extract. Reese makes foods I’ve never thought of as homemade – vanilla extract being one example. She says she’ll try anything – and she does. She ranges from tamer experiments, like making bagels and yogurt from scratch, to kitchen adventures that take some real guts, like raising and slaughtering chickens and curing her own bacon.
I like a lot of things about this cookbook, but what I enjoyed the most are the introductions to each chapter and to each recipe. The author sets the stage for each new food foray and her self-deprecating humor is pretty hilarious. I laughed out loud at the passage when her husband discovered she’d bought chickens to raise. She’s honest about when she takes shortcuts, when a recipe just isn’t worth the work, and when her kids tell her she’s nuts.
Another plus is how the book is laid out. For each recipe, she answers the question asked in the title: make it or buy it? She also offers a cost breakdown between supermarket brands and homemade. If you weren’t motivated to make your own cocoa mix or Hollandaise sauce when you turned to that page, you might change your mind after reading her cost and taste comparisons.
I’ve recommended this cookbook to even my most kitchen-challenged friends. I think it’s as pleasant to just read and enjoy as it is to cook from. It’s clear that Reese simply believes food should taste good and she doesn’t discriminate about foods like potato chips (buy them) and hot dog buns (make them).
Read it for the fun of it and you might surprise yourself with what recipes you end up wanting to try out for yourself.