Book Review - 'The Cookiepedia'

Posted on: 28 October 2011 by Alexander Hay

Cookies a plenty, or at least, recipes to make 50 different kinds, ranging from chocolate smothered tongue blasters to savoury little numbers using green tea and salt and pepper

COOKIE!!!! NOMNOMNOMNOM...Who doesn't like biscuits or cookies? In fact, as far as they are concerned, I am myself a big mouthed, blue furred, wobbly eyed death metal vocalist, as are indeed you all.

In a sense, then, Stacy Adimando's new recipe book, The Cookiepedia has the easiest job ever. All she needed to do is splice together some nice biscuit photographs and some working recipes and success would be hers. And yet Adimando still puts in a great deal of extra effort, with detailed but clear recipes and all the instructions you should ever need, including a table for converting US imperial measurements to metric. At times, the level of detail (and tips on what to do if the recipe doesn't quite work out as described) is exhaustive.

Were that all the book offered, this would be a brief but moderately congratulatory review. But what stands out is the author, or rather, what she reveals about herself as she writes the book. Adimando is a journalist, so the flowing, easy style of the book comes naturally to her. But The Cookiepedia isn't just a recipe book. In many ways, it is a memoir, a comedy skit and a trip into Adimando's head, a sort of autobiographical novel masquerading as a cookbook.

And what a complex biscuit maker she is! Her authorial voice ranges from gauche 'gee, whiz, golly' American informalities to droll, knowing New York media snark, but then hops and skips through sentimental reminisces of the 'home country' (her parents are both Sicilian) to her childhood to a sort of bright, optimistic humour to the languid, artful prose of a food lover. “The lemony, woodsy scent of savory cardomom lures you in” she seems to almost purr at one point, while saying, just a page later, “anytime of day, anytime of year, this is a cookie that calls my name”.

The frenzied labours hinted at in the introduction and put on display in the form of the recipes suggest a perfectionist, and an obsessive one too. Does this make for better biscuits? Well, she's certainly done the hard work for the reader, but it seems to sit oddly with an introduction simply titled 'Hello!' and graphic descriptions of cookie tasting that verge on the orgasmic - “flooded with a tongue-happying salty nutty flavor and plenty of baked-in sugary crystals, the chewy result is borderline indescribable” she all but gasps at one point. Steady, Stacy, steady!

In that sense, The Cookiepedia is as much a book about the cook as the cookie, and like all good recipes, mixes the two together to great effect. It's also one of only a few recipe books that are great fun to read. Baking, after all, should always be about personality.

The Cookiepedia is published by Quirk (RRP £11.99) and is on sale now.

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Alexander Hay

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