When a cookbook doesn't live up to expectations

Oh, the thrill of a new cookbook: cracking open the cover, leafing through the pages, and marking the pages of the recipes you want to try first. You gather all of the ingredients and proceed on the maiden voyage. And the results? Eh, it wasn't what you were expecting. You shrug it off, thinking 'not every recipe can be a superstar'.

open books

You shrug off the less-than-wonderful dish and move on to the next recipe. It, too, doesn't live up to your expectations. Maybe you begin to doubt yourself - did you follow the instructions correctly? Did you miss anything in the ingredients list? I can't tell you how many times I have overlooked a prep bowl. But no, that's not it. 

Now, the question is, do you give up after two or three disappointing recipes? How many tries before you give up on a book? And if you do give up on it, do you cull it from your library or do you hang on to it just in case a different recipe redeems the book? 

I have had a cookbook where the first three recipes were not that great. I was about to give up on it but decided to give it one more chance and the recipe was so wonderful that it completely changed my mind. I won't keep you in suspense - the book was Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker. The recipe that changed my mind was the Miniature Tartlet Pastry. After finding that recipe, I went on to discover several more winners and the book will never be leaving my bookshelf.

That experience changed my approach to evaluate new books. When I get a new cookbook that doesn't instantly live up to expectations, I give it a few more tries before I give up on it. So far, I haven't found many books where my perseverance hasn't paid off. How many attempts do you give a cookbook before you call it quits?  


  • ccav  on  9/10/2018 at 2:54 PM

    There have been times that I may not be attracted to many recipes but I really liked the writing in the book. Or, I really enjoyed the book design/drawings/photographs more than the recipes. Only a handful of times did I feel extremely disappointed by cookbooks and these are usually ones purchased online which I could not find easily in a local bookstore or library to peruse before purchasing. This is why I much prefer buying from a real bookstore when possible!

  • sir_ken_g  on  9/10/2018 at 8:31 PM

    Well all my books go into the EYB database - so they have plenty of chances. If they never pop up they eventually get exiled to the attic.

  • kprovost  on  9/11/2018 at 3:24 PM

    I love all of my 175 cookbooks, but I just could not get into Prune. It was a gift, so not something I pondered over purchasing like I do the rest. There was just nothing in it that I wanted to make. I ended up selling it to the Strand for like $5.

  • mjes  on  9/17/2018 at 5:10 PM

    I rarely follow recipes precisely. Rather I take several related recipes, pick out what appeals to me in each of them, and forge ahead with my own hybrid ... which I proceed to modify until I get what I like. Therefore, when I get a new cookbook, I am looking for new combinations, new techniques, new tweaks that sound interesting. There may be nothing exceptional in a particular cookbook but it may lead me back through history and influence to something that is of interest; or it my propel me forward into a rethinking of a dish that never occurred to me before; or it may simply leave me musing about the variety of food fads I've lived through and cooks who have influenced me.

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