Here's an interesting exercise I thought we could try.
Let's take 3 up-to-the-minute cookbooks at random off the
pile and see how they address an everyday ingredient. Say
Shrimp Biryani (Indian Shrimp and
Rice), from The Food52
Cookbook. It's a fairly simple one-dish meal, with an
attractive photograph at the end. It has 18 ingredients if
you count all the spices; it has 10 steps, and cooks in 1 pot.
Despite all the seasonings, I wouldn't expect it to take
longer than 45 minutes to an hour to complete. There are some
tips at the end, like throwing in vegetables to make it a more
complete meal, or what sort of pan to use, and quotes from the cook
and a user who tried it. It serves 6.
I could easily imagine making this at home on a weeknight for
the family, and I'm positive they'd eat it all.
Fiery Grilled Shrimp with
Honeydew Gazpacho, from Home Cooking
with Jean-Georges. This is, I'm fairly sure, an
appetizer, as the serving size works out to 4 shrimp and the
gorgeous, restaurant-presentation picture has only 2. There
are 13 ingredients and 5 steps, requiring 2 cooking implements (a
blender and a grill). It serves 4, but in an "OK, what's
next" sort of way.
If I made this, it would be as an appetizer for some guests I
really wanted to impress (most of my dinners don't involve
dedicated appetizers these days), and it would serve 4 only because
the kids probably wouldn't go near it. But I probably
wouldn't make it at all because I can't afford the time I'd
otherwise be spending on the main protein.
Asparagus Textures with Shrimp
and Anise Hyssop from Eleven
Madison Park: The Cookbook. The photograph is so stunning I
have no idea what I'm looking at, but it's probably art.
Even the name of the dish is hard to parse. The dish is
composed of 4 recipes, with 38 ingredients (2 of which are
completely different sub-recipes with 10 more ingredients and a
sub-sub-recipe) including liquid nitrogen and pea tendrils. I
thought it had 10 steps, not counting the sub- recipes, but then I
looked at one of the steps and saw it was really composed of 8 more
steps. The names of the four "basic" recipes making up this
dish are: Frozen Asparagus Mousse, Dehydrated Almond Milk Crisp,
Almond Milk Snow, and Shrimp.
Likelihood of my ever making this? Zero. I
could devote a week to tracking down the ingredients, not
all of which are available in the same season, and a couple of days
to making the sub-recipes, and clear out the fridge to have room
for all the prepped components. But then, what would the
family eat those days? And it's only an appetizer, after all.
On the other hand, Serves 8.
The moral of the story? I don't mean for there to be one.
It's a curious commentary on the way we live today that all
three of these can be called "recipes" despite their very different
intents and results. I'm glad all three of these cookbooks
exist, and they each have something to offer someone--though not
the same thing, and not to the same someone. One recipe feeds
the soul, another the stomach, the other the imagination--but maybe
none of them can feed all three equally well.