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The Christmas Table
Recipes and Crafts to Create Your Own Holiday Traditions

By Diane Morgan
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6093-2
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication date: November 2008
Format: Paperback
List price: $19.95 
Type: Holidays: Christmas
Sample recipe: Bourbon and Brown Sugar–Crusted HamWild Rice with Roasted Chestnuts and Cranberries
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Tone: food police intense neutral supportive comforting
Result: guilt-inducing heavy-handed balanced encouraging inspiring
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Mainly a recipe book, The Christmas Table aims to give you enough information to prepare, plan menus, cook, and entertain during the Christmas holidays with a relatively low stress level.

There are chapters on main course recipes (all of which look great), side dishes, desserts, appetizers and drinks, soups and salads, and Christmas breakfast and brunch suggestions. There are also chapters on creating gifts of food (including the author's Christmas Pecans – a recipe she has been unwilling to share for at least 20 years), cookies for exchanging, suggested party menus and timetables, leftovers recipes, and a chapter on decorating, including dressing up a wreath, decorating candle holders, and gilding nuts, fruit, and squash.

The recipes for some of the side dishes are just exotic enough that they may not satisfy people looking for a guide to a completely traditional holiday. How many people are really going to serve a purée of celery root in place of mashed potatoes? Some of the soups seem particularly non-Christmassy, but we will give the author the benefit of the doubt that they are Christmas specialties from foreign lands that we're not completely familiar with. Sourcing certain ingredients is also going to be problematic. Where do you find Lindemans Framboise Lambic Beer for the cranberry relish?

Still, The Christmas Table has a great mix of traditional and modern recipes, a practical mix of advanced-beginner-to-gourmet dishes and decorating ideas, and an interesting mix of Christian and Jewish traditions (although without the merest whisper of religion), that will help anyone get from start to finish when it comes to cooking, decorating, and entertaining at Christmas time.


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