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BOLD a Cookbook of Big FlavorsReviewed by Shannon Trenton

Food is a central part of our lives, whether choosing what or where to eat or learning new dishes–even counting calories has us thinking in a fundamental way about the food we eat. Shelves of cookbooks in the store are an apt illustration of our culture’s love affair with food.

A good cookbook has complete recipes that a home cook can follow with minimal difficulty. A great cookbook includes interesting combinations of flavor and unexpected ingredients that elevate simple dishes to a new level. With Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors, Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise have surpassed these milestones and presented something even greater: a love story of food.

The book is divided as one would expect, including brilliant courses from appetizers to dessert and everything in between. As their focus is on quintessentially American dishes, Hoffman and Wise also give game and fish their own section; however, they are also friendly to vegetarians with an entire vegetable chapter.

There are no “simple” recipes in this cookbook, though most home cooks will find many ingredients already in their pantry. Intriguing combinations like zucchini with cheddar and lime (p. 26) or olive oil cardamom ice cream (p. 386) are a celebration of American cuisine’s evolution and a promise to stir the diner’s palette with every dish. And they do not neglect the technique of cooking: every recipe includes clear measurements and cook times (as always, adjust for your equipment as needed), and there is a comprehensive conversion table right before the index.

As a reader who loves food, Bold is a one-two punch of fantastic: more than a cookbook, it is a food novel. Every chapter includes sections with fun facts and information about staple foods in the American diet–you have never been so close to the food you eat! For example, did you know:

  • In 1917 the Girl Scouts baked their famous cookies at home with their mothers (p. 378);
  • Pasta can be cut and formed into more than 600 shapes (p. 314);
  • Lewis and Clark used Dutch ovens during their expeditions (p. 88)

In addition, Hoffman and Wise pay tribute to the many other cultures whose culinary practices have been absorbed into what is considered American cuisine–in some cases, to the point that some dishes considered “ethnic” are actually all-American creations (looking at you, General Tso’s chicken)!

If you want to cook great food, there are a number of cookbooks that will suit your needs. If you want to cook amazing food, and fall in love with American cuisine, the only book you need on your shelf is Bold.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Workman Publishing Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.