The second round of the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks hath concluded, and some knockout judges (Tim Gunn! Rachael Ray!) knocked out some very good cookbooks. The competition is getting fierce.
In Tim Gunn’s review, we learn a lot about him—so much, it’s like one of those “what’s in your purse?” sections of a tabloid. Most shocking: He does not cook with salt. Really, he’s had the same salt cellar for a decade. (Wonder what he would’ve said about Samin’s 50+ pages on salt in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.)
We also learn that Fig Newtons are his favorite cookie, and though he loves a figgy, wheaty cookie, he’s not a baker. But that doesn’t stop him from baking his way through BraveTart—and falling for this thing called a stand mixer.
While the tournament asks judges to cook from each of their books, Jen Agg went about things in a different way; she loves cookbooks for their ability to transport you through words and images, even if you never cook from them. Her approach certainly rustled some Piglet readers' feathers. Ultimately, Agg chose the book that she wanted to hang out in more—the book that “doesn’t just introduce you to the food of another culture, it creates its own world, one you’d happily inhabit permanently.”
The way Rachael Ray writes is pretty infectious, and she—and the Food Network—know it. On the Next Food Network Star, they instruct contestants to lead with the story behind the dish in order to bring people to your symbolic “table"; it's something Ray does effortlessly and without instruction.
She judges two cookbooks with lofty concepts played out in light, enthusiastic ways. On the winning book, Ray says it best herself: “This book is effin’ cool—it’s both inspiring and a party waiting to happen.”
Kevin Kwan might win the medal for “best sport” of this year’s tournament: He judged not two but three books (oops!). For someone who isn’t a frequent home cook, Kwan did a great job picking up the essence of each title (and was smart in getting friends to help with the cooking).
Kwan found Kaukasis to be a true odyssey, while Six Seasons expanded his love of vegetables (or maybe just pasta with broccoli and sausage). Even after cooking thoroughly through his three books, though, there's one he just can't quit.