The Ultimate Student Cookbook: From Chicken To Chili, by Tiffany Goodall
Reading a book like this is more than a little bit disappointing. This book is aimed at a college audience, but the author herself is someone who writes this from a post-college point of view. Judging from the photos and text in the book, there are a lot of unkind things that can be said about the author, who appears to have used her cooking skills to make friends and influence people. That is not to say that there are not some good recipes here–there are quite a few tasty recipes that are well worth trying–it is just that this cookbook tends to fall in a bit of an uncanny valley in terms of what it offers the reader. The foods are often a bit too basic to excite foodies, a bit too exotic to appeal to those who like basic foods, and a bit too unhealthy or unclean in various ways to appeal to those with more fussy dietary requirements. To be sure, this book is a former student’s cookbook, but it is nowhere near an ultimate cookbook, not least because many students will simply not have fancy equipment or large budgets when it comes to their foods.
This book is a relatively short one at a bit more than 150 pages. The book begins with an introductory section that contains “basic” kitchen equipment, pantry ingredients, and food hygiene. After that there are nine chapters containing different foods. We move from the author’s interest in breakfast foods (mostly smoothies, egg dishes, and crepes, as well as fruit salad) (1) to fast food (pasta, risotto, toast, sandwiches, omelets, and a couple of chicken dishes) (2), and then to food on the movie (including pitas, sandwiches, and salads) (3). This is followed by “healthy” food for the girls (including, oddly, shrimp, soups, and various noodle dishes as well as salads) (4), dishes aimed at the boys (including potatoes, sandwiches, Mexican dishes, as well as burgers and fries and lamb curry) (5). There are chapters that deal with weekday dishes (including pizza, pasta, garlic bread, shepherd’s pie, fish pie, fishcakes, and baked chicken) (6) and weekend dishes (including roast chicken, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, beef stew, casserole, curries, and some rice dishes) (7). The book then finishes with some food for house parties (including cocktails and cocktail food) (8) as well as desserts (9), followed by an index and acknowledgements.
One wonders how it is that the author got to write a book on this subject. The author does not appear to be anyone particularly famous, so it is not as if there is a lot of name recognition with this book. Nor is this book aimed at the audience of people enjoying the ramen life, for whom most of these dishes will be well out of the range of such people. One gets the feeling that the author probably had contacts with the publisher, who thought that it would be a good book for the college fraternity and especially sorority market among those who wanted tasty and relatively straightforward but not extremely healthful food, because it is that sort of food that is provided here. I found a few dishes of interest, and appreciated the approach, which focused on photographs of the cooking, and so this book is certainly not a waste. It just not quite the book it wishes it was or that it purports itself to be, which means that a reader must approach this book with a sense or rational stating and moderation of the book’s claims to be an ultimate student cookbook, when it is merely an interesting and generally competent one.