Cooking Beyond Measure: How to Eat Well Without Formal Recipes

Overview

This title is about the simple, healthy, thrifty, green kitchen-but it takes this timely message one step further: There are no measurements or prescriptive directions. This is a cookbook that's more like kitchen companion for thrifty everyday cooks. Jean Johnson, food historian turned cookbook writer, questions SAD (the Standard American Diet). In addition to Michael Pollan's Big Food, she targets Big Cooking. "Why should the elite chefs have all the fun? This is just easy everyday cooking. The same food women ...

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Overview

This title is about the simple, healthy, thrifty, green kitchen-but it takes this timely message one step further: There are no measurements or prescriptive directions. This is a cookbook that's more like kitchen companion for thrifty everyday cooks. Jean Johnson, food historian turned cookbook writer, questions SAD (the Standard American Diet). In addition to Michael Pollan's Big Food, she targets Big Cooking. "Why should the elite chefs have all the fun? This is just easy everyday cooking. The same food women have been making around the world for centuries-without putting reading glasses on!"The pages of Cooking Beyond Measure are filled with poetry. Lines like "paprika with its come hither red sass," and using "enough cheese to melt your heart." Yet, under the light-hearted prose lies a radical message: "the small chemistry experiment approach to cooking is a key reason we schlep off to the land of crinkly packages—a spendy place that is often unhealthy."Johnson's solution? Leave your measuring cups behind and take back your

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This odd recipe collection from culinary historian Johnson feels more like a conversation with a quirky cooking enthusiast than a full-fledged cookbook. Instead of using the traditional recipe format-lists of ingredients followed by detailed instructions on what to do with them-Johnson relies on "recipe notes," wherein she lays out the basic gist, and follows up with "details," in which she riffs on the recipe, its invention, or anything else that strikes her fancy. Most of the dishes she includes are vegetarian, healthy, and so basic they could be constructed by a third-grader: Dog Days Supper, for instance, involves piling a plate with tomatoes, cucumbers, quinoa and basil, and dumping some hummus in the middle. Other recipes require a slightly more comprehensive skill set, such as a tempting Minestrone with Millet and summery Snap Beans with Pesto. Unfortunately, too many dishes are either profoundly unappealing (a vegetable-thickened Peanut Butter and Jelly Soup) or frustratingly vague: cooking instructions for Double Treatment Salmon, for instance, are to "run under the broiler until gorgeous." Nevertheless, the author's chatty warmth and clear enthusiasm for whipping up unconventional treats makes this cookbook fun to flip through, if not necessarily tempting to cook from.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Saratogian
Calls Cooking Beyond Measure "a great new find this year" and lists it sixth out of seventeen books in her annual Books for Cooks column. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything tops the list.
7#151;Annette Nielsen
Film Monthly.com
Cooking Beyond Measure: How to Eat Well Without Formal Recipes by Jean Johnson is a nicely presented history of food, dressed up like a cookbook. In saying that, I mean the book is chock-full of recipes but offers lessons not only in cooking but also explains the differences in, for example, organic eggs. The book's main purpose, however, is to free ambitious cooks from the worrisome job of having to measure everything that goes into a good meal.
—Elaine Hegwood Bowen
St. Joe (Missouri) News
Fannie Farmer revolutionized cooking when her book, the "Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" was released in 1896. It was the first time a cookbook contained precise measurements for recipes.

When Ms. Farmer devised and shared those accurate measurements, she turned cooking into a science.

Modern-day cultural historian, food writer and cookbook author Jean Johnson wishes Ms. Farmer wouldn't have done that.

"On a daily basis, when all we want is dinner, few of us are up to doing the equivalent of small chemistry experiments," she says.

In her new cookbook, "Cooking Beyond Measure: How to Eat Well Without Formal Recipes," Ms. Johnson urges cooks to "throw away your measuring cups and take back your kitchens." It's not as hard as you might think, she says.
—Cathy Woolridge
Columbia Tribune and American Diabetes Association Newsletter
Johnson's hot-off-the-press cookbook, "Cooking Beyond Measure," teaches us "how to eat well without formal recipes." To that, I say hallelujah. It's about time we rediscovered our natural instincts and put together simple fresh foods, seasoned to taste the way our great-grandmothers prepared food generations ago.

With a Ph.D. in culinary history, Johnson sprinkles her cookbook with unique stories about food. For example, she explains that "Americans only got measuring cups in the early 1900s, and everyday cooks from around the world still operate measure free." She argues that our system of precise measurements stifles what should be a "free-flowing, creative process."
—Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.
Library Journal

This collection presents an interesting, primarily vegetarian, mix of approximately 65 "recipes," focusing on grains, legumes, and organic products, with a few shrimp and fish dishes. Many have a Southwestern or Asian feel. The idea of the book is appealing-cooking without recipes sounds easier and less restraining. However, Johnson, a cultural historian, seems to take a lot of knowledge for granted, such as how to sprout wheat berries, how to steam amaranth cereal, and how hot an oven to use to roast vegetables. In effect, this book doesn't need to have recipes, as long as the reader has other resources that provide these kinds of details. Overall, most of the recipelike suggestions include combining ingredients into soups, salads, or similar dishes, where proportions aren't critical. There is good information about ingredients and variations on combining them. For someone already familiar with cooking these types of foods who would like to branch out, this could be a useful work. An optional purchase for most libraries.
—Susan Hurst

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780981527109
  • Publisher: Seventy-Sixth Avenue Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Series: Measurefree Kitchen Companion Series
  • Pages: 212
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Portland, Oregon's Jean Johnson is a historian turned cookbook writer. After the Sixties, Johnson spent 10 years within the Southwest's Hopi and Navajo reservations. She questions the measured approach to cooking adopted by Americans in the 1890s. Michael Pollan may center his critique on Big Food, but Ms. Johnson targets Big Cooking as the real wolf in the hen house.

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