However, there's one genre I have little to do with: cookbooks. I'm not a frequent cook, and when I do cook, I just throw things together rather than follow a real plan (and the meal usually reflects my haphazard style).
But a different kind of cookbook came to my attention. It's Italian/Mediterranean food inspired, written by a convert, and the book includes several essays about the author's Jewish journey. How could I say no to that?? The author sent me a free book in the hopes that I would write an honest review, and lucky for her, her book is awesome: Meatballs and Matzah Balls by Marcia A. Friedman.
I usually find cookbooks pretty boring reading that just results in me stuffing my face (or only looking at the pictures). I loved the inclusion of essays about the author's life, though of course each one left me with more questions and wanting to have a long chat with the author about her incredible journey. Even better, each recipe starts with a short note about the recipe, whether its history, its relevance to the author, or some helpful tips.
And let's not forget the photos. I wasn't so crazy about the cover of the book (for some reason, I wish there were only two bowls instead of four...maybe it's the OCD?), but the photos inside are fantastic and mouth-watering. I subjected the rest of my family to a new picture every few minutes while I was reading! I think they were a little glad when I finished it :/
There are helpful tips throughout, which made me feel I could trust the author to not lead me astray with hard-to-follow recipes, no matter how complicated they look. Granted, most were not complicated sounding, but I'm a little gunshy when it comes to cookbooks. Which brings me to an important point: I would classify this as an Intermediate Level cookbook. If you don't know what a Dutch oven is or how to use one, I would recommend having Google/YouTube nearby and prepare to Phone a Friend, if not having the friend help out in person. In my life, that means calling my dad a couple of times per recipe when I try something new. Personally, I wouldn't attempt most of these recipes without some Lifelines the first time I made them.
As you can imagine, an Italian-inspired cookbook is heavy on the dairy, which makes for some very creative substitutions in classically meat-and-dairy Italian dishes (and they sound awesome!). All the recipes are kosher-friendly, but there are notes about alternate preparations for those who don't keep kosher. There's also a Passover-specific section, though many of the recipes are kosher l'Pesach or easily made so.
Unfortunately for me, I went vegan-ish a couple of months ago. (If you want to become a Parevore too, check out one of my other Twitter accounts, which is where I hide all my chizuk - stuff to help me stay strong: @KosherJustice) So unfortunately...most of this cookbook is off limits to me because I'm not skilled enough to make substitutions for the dairy recipes, and I've found that many dairy substitutions aren't really worth it anyway. However, I do sometimes eat meat, and there are some pareve dishes.
But how I wish things were different! Dairy has always been my BFF, even though I'm horribly lactose intolerant. I want to eat everything in this cookbook, so if you aren't yet on the plant-based diet bandwagon, I highly recommend this cookbook, even if you aren't normally a "cookbook person." Go get your copy!