Cookbook Review: Something Old, Something New by Tamar Adler

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you've ever been fascinated by the wobbly aspics and funny gherkin hors d'oeuvres of the "old days", this book was written for you. Adler aims to bring these forgotten slices of history back into the culinary forefront, with recipes that adapt them to more modern tastes. It's a noble goal, and it is always interesting to see what was considered trendy in the food world decades ago. 

The book is laid out in an interesting manner, more resembling a long conversation rather than a cookbook. Adler introduces each classic dish by first telling a story about its historical context. This can go on for longer than necessary before she eventually drops off a recipe, describes the recipe in detail, then moves on to the next sometimes-unrelated dish. 

I have seen complaints from other reviewers that the writing tends to ramble, and they're not off-base. While I think there's more method to the meandering nature of her writing than meets the eye, she does tend to go into a lot of unnecessary detail before presenting each recipe. Lots of names are dropped, and a lot of classic literature is quoted. Her writing style is definitely high-brow and a far cry from the more approachable writing you'll see in cookbooks nowadays. You'll either love it or hate it. I personally found it exhausting to read after a while, and my interest petered out by page 23. I think more illustrations (there were very few in my ARC) or photos of the traditional vs. modern dishes would have been a nice palate cleanser between all of that flowery writing. As it is, the writing is a bit too much for the average reader. 

The recipes themselves are interesting with a heavy French influence. Some are still found on modern kitchen tables (such as Clam Chowder and Fresh Bean Succotash), while others are more rediscovered classics (such as Duck Confit a l'Orange and Turnip Gratin). While I didn't try any of the recipes before writing this, there were a good number that I bookmarked and intend on cooking, which is impressive for a book that is devoted to more retro recipes. 

Organization is a bit of an issue. Despite being divided by course, the recipes are sprinkled throughout each chapter in a way that makes them hard to find without an index, which wasn't included in my ARC. A mini table of contents at the start of each chapter would have helped. 

Overall, this is a cookbook that despite many lovely qualities and a writer who clearly did her research on the subject was just not enjoyable enough for me to finish reading. I hate reviewing a cookbook without reading every page, as I appreciate all the time and effort it takes for a book to be published, after weeks of slogging through this, I admit defeat. 

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

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