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Review: Joy of Cooking: All About Party Foods & Drinks

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Joy of Cooking: All About Party Foods & Drinks
By Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Becker Rombauer, and Ethan Becker
ISBN: 0743216792
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: September 2002
Format: Hardcover
List price: $15.95  (Canada, UK)
Type: Single Subject: Entertaining
Sample Recipe: Pirozhki, No-Fail Boiled Shrimp, Tortilla Española
intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive Biblical stature coffee-table
competition: outclassed also-ran midrange strong challenger leads the pack
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 >300
practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% >80%
# of ingredients: <3 <6 <9 <12 >12
ingredient hunt: 7-11 pantry supermarket online airfare required
recipe complexity: baby steps simple medium intense professional
instructions: inadequate bare bones full figured educational verbose
time conscious: outright lies speed of light fairly quick takes time takes all day
photos/drawings: skimpy adequate generous instructive glorious
recipe results: dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
flavor quotient: disappointing fair good delicious exceptional
layout: ick cluttered clean kind to cooks work of art
legibility: microscopic challenging adequate clear brilliant
production quality: cheesy questionable years of service gift-quality stunning
value: ouch! a little pricey on the money excellent worth splurging
Ease of Use
page numbers: invisible hard to find spotty adequate obvious
table of contents: missing frustrating passable useful helpful
index quality: none tragic adequate good excellent
page flipping: infuriating tedious acceptable rare never
writer: hack cook turned writer writer turned cook comedian auteur
cook: self-taught non-restaurant chef teacher celebrity
overall rating: fair good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

If the Joy of Cooking, at 1136 pages, is just too daunting, if pictures matter a lot to you, and if you're heading into party season without a clue, Joy of Cooking: All About Party Foods & Drinks may be just what you need. This new JOC book plucks most of the party-ready recipes from the larger volume, adds big, full color pictures of most of the finished foods and color or black & white photos of many cooking procedures, and presents it all in a much more user-friendly format. True, if you simply bought the Joy of Cooking instead of all 12 of the JOC mini-volumes, you'd save enough money to wallpaper your bathroom, but sometimes a single-subject book is all you need. 

The recipes produce good, generally attractive party food (and drinks), which is great, because sometimes it can be a real challenge to find innovative, pretty, good-tasting food to take to a party or serve at your own. The recipes are a solid notch down from what you find in something like Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook, but they're also a notch down in complexity, which is very meaningful to huge segments of the population. 

The book follows the time-tested JOC format of introducing each ingredient when you need it in the recipe, which makes is a little more challenging to set up your mise en place, that is, to get all the ingredients assembled before you start cooking. But the recipes are easy enough to follow. The text is studded with useful tips on buying, storing, and preparing ingredients. 

If we could improve the book, it would be to categorize or label dishes that can be made in advance and held until party time, and to label those dishes that travel well — because we are asked to bring food to parties much more often than we host our own events.

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