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Review: Nigella Bites

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Nigella Bites
By Nigella Lawson
ISBN: 0786868694
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication date: Oct. 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
List price: $35  (Canada, UK)
Type: TV Series Companion Book
Sample recipe: Slow-Roasted Aromatic Shoulder of Pork
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
Comments: Surely there is something for everyone in this book. Surely there is something to annoy everyone in this book. A wildly eclectic mix of recipes — some that literally take all day, others that exalt prepackaged foods — Nigella Bites is a companion book to the TV series of the same name, running on the Style and E! Entertainment Television networks. But this is a companion cookbook that absolutely stands on its own.

The recipes, to the extent that they can be categorized at all, range from Southern comfort foods to a broad mix of ethnic dishes, including Indian, Thai, Italian, Jewish, Cambodian, etc. There is a section on "All-Day Breakfasts" (since no one has time for breakfast at the start of the day anymore), rainy-day dishes, party food, trash food (refer to above comments on prepackaged foods and think deep-fried Mounds candy bars), dishes to help a hangover seem less dire, and — if it's possible — everything in between. The full-scale entertaining menus at the back of the book are innovative and appealing and absolutely tempting, and Nigella Lawson makes you believe you can actually pull off a dinner for 12 without resorting to pulling out your hair.

If you're a fan of Lawson, you'll surely find the pages and pages of text charming. If you're new to the cooking diva, you may find it excessively chatty. We're somewhere in the middle, but it does seem to us that Lawson occasionally tries too hard to be clever or cool or witty or sensual, or whatever her devil-may-care goal is. Still, amid the sameness that afflicts too many cookbooks these days, Nigella Bites stands out as unique and in full possession of that indefinable quality of personality.

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