The Piglet2012 / Quarterfinal Round, 2012

Truly Mexican: Essential Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Mexican Cooking

Truly Mexican

Roberto Santibanez

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Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch


Nigel Slater

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Judged by: Roz Chast

Roz Chast is a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker. Over 1,000 of her cartoons have appeared in the magazine. Her most recent book is What I Hate From A to Z, published in 2011, and her signature dish is Saltines à la Crunchy Peanut Butter.

The Judgment

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Roz Chast Judgement

And the winner is…

Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

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Do you Agree?


The S. February 3, 2012
My comments are not showing up. I am also disturbed and saddened by this review. I live in SW rural (but I can drive to Cinci/Dayton) Ohio and I can get ancho chile peppers--which, as everyone else has noted, are dried not fresh. I love the idea of Food52 people doing these contests in the future--I trust you guys way more!
The S. February 3, 2012
I completely agree with everyone who was disturbed and saddened by this review. And for what it is worth I live in rural SW Ohio and I can get anchos. Idea of cartoon review: great. Actual review? NOT.
gluttonforlife February 2, 2012
Huh?? Love Roz, but not in this forum.
M.Kurtzman February 1, 2012
I know that this is just supposed to be a fun contest.I think that Roz Chast is always amusing,and that Tender is a lovely book-I've read and cooked from it.But,when people making recipes make substitutions,and then knock the dish,it's aggravating,and kind of unfair...just sayin'
lbrussell February 2, 2012
Exactly. It's like when someone gives a poor recipe review ("This recipe didn't work.") and then goes on to say they left out the butter, sugar, and eggs.
Speckledrooster February 1, 2012
The cartoon may be fun but the review isn't what I expect from Food52. I think it's disrespectful to the cookbook authors and the Food52 community to allow judges who either won't take the time or lack the culinary skills to review a cookbook I also agree with Rivka that Ina Garden's review was similarly disappointing.
mrslarkin February 1, 2012
I borrowed both books from the library. They are equally great. Roz’s cartoon is cute! And yet, while I’m happy that Tender is moving on to the next round, I feel Truly Mexican’s review was unrepresentative.

Rivka is right; chiles are pretty much available everywhere these days, not just Mexico and New York City, as the cartoon suggests. Adobos are made with DRIED CHILES, as it states in the very thorough 25-page-long adobo chapter of the book. The Basic Ancho Adobo recipe (pg 126 - sounds really yummy btw,) takes all of 3 minutes in a blender. Cooking the fish (pg 130) takes 2 or 3 minutes per side, as quick as, say, laying out a cheese board and opening a bottle of wine, after rummaging through the junk drawer for the corkscrew, and looking for the crackers. There’s also a Basics chapter, which talks about essential ingredients and techniques, a Salsa chapter, a Guacamole chapter, a Mole chapter, a what-else-to-do-with-sauces chapter, and then finally, a sides chapter. I’m eager to learn and cook from this book, as we love authentic Mexican food.

Perhaps, in the little piglet info box, top right, where it says "Welcome to the year 3 of the tournament of cookbooks!", omit the part about the judges being top food writers and chefs, because clearly, some aren’t. Or better yet, find judges who will agree to give equal consideration to both contenders and actually cook from the books.
healthierkitchen February 2, 2012
I have to say that I loved the cartoon itself and maybe Ms. Chast even exaggerated her ineptitude to make a better story (?), and maybe Tender would have advanced anyway, but I am loving Truly Mexican. I made the carnitas yesterday, and though it's really more of a weekend dish based on time on stove and in oven, the prep was minimal, and the tacos we made with it were delicious. Next I will use his suggestion to use the other half of the batch in a pork and beans dish.
feucht22 February 1, 2012
How fun with the cartoons. Thanks!
garlic&lemon January 31, 2012
I am disturbed and saddened by the stereotype of Mexican cooking perpetrated by Ms. Chast. It seems that she did not actually read enough of Truly Mexican to find recipes without chiles (there are MANY) - or was she not interested in discovering anything that might broaden the Mexican = hot-chiles-in-everything stereotype illustrated in her third illustration? Just because her illustrations are cute and humorous, does not excuse this kind of cultural rigidity. I participate in Food52 because the cooks are curious, adventurous, generous and enthusiastic. For those of us who hear similar stereotypes in the daily news this is not cute. I agree with Rivka and other previous commentators about the lack of basic consideration given to Truly Mexican. It's not that I am advocating for it to have been the winner; the basis for her lack of consideration was offensive. It was a talented person being thoughtless. This is the definition of micro-trauma in the psychology and sociology fields in which I work. This type of narrowness is not a characteristic of Food52 and does not belong in the Piglet.
lbrussell January 31, 2012
I have no allegiance to either of these books, yet after reading their round one reviews I hope to purchase both of them at some point. While I appreciate the variation in judging format, I can't help but think Roberto Santibanez was dealt a huge disservice in this round of judging. If all the other judges in the competition are food professionals, capable of critical testing and judging, then EVERY judge should be capable of such. Ancho chiles are available at Safeway, hanging next to the Goya products in the Mexican-foods section.
dymnyno January 31, 2012
I love the variety of judges! The entire bracket of cookbooks is composed of winners. Each judge brings another mindset of humor, knowledge, skill sets or lack thereof, which is what we are all about. I am enjoying reading a new point of view each day whether or not I agree on the result. I am a big Roz Chast fan and loved her cartoon as much as I like each day's judges input and final decision.
MaryMaryCulinary January 31, 2012
I agree, Rivka and I hope some of these books get back in for the wildcard round. I've also been thinking that Food52 members might be the best people to review and judge.
Rivka January 31, 2012
I had that same thought! Would LOVE to read reviews from well-seasoned Food52ers.
Nourish C. February 1, 2012
There's a wild card Round?! I'm so excited!
MaryMaryCulinary February 1, 2012
I didn't see it in the bracket for this year, but books that were eliminated 'too early' were added back in in the 2 previous years. We shall see...
The S. February 3, 2012
YES! Would love to see Food52 people do the reviews. How fun!
christine H. February 3, 2012
I prefer to read reviews by creative/interesting people and wouldn't read a piglet drawn from food52 reviewers. The food52 reviewers do a disservice to the talent that the editors have gathered by whining about every review.
ChefJune January 31, 2012
EXTREMELY well put, Rivka. I'm at a loss as to how a non-cook is in any position to judge a cookbook. Roz Chait is a brilliant cartoonist, but her failure with the recipe from Truly Mexican came from her lack of culinary knowledge.
leen01 January 31, 2012
I totally agree with Rivka. Let's decide what this is: if it's really meant to be a competition and review of cookbooks for us, the food52 audience, then let the reviewers reflect who we are - interested in food and ingredients even if a bit off the beaten path, and interested in cooking them. If Piglet is supposed to be a showcase for interesting/entertaining people, then let them review one book or cook one dish (like Jenny's blog) and write (or draw) about it.
Rivka January 31, 2012
Agreed. I think that's the real core of the problem I had with this review: it doesn't really reflect an awareness of or appreciation for the Food 52 community. I understand that having an impressive roster of judges can draw a broader audience into the Piglet, but personally, I'd prefer judges whose names are less well known but who have interesting experiences with/perspectives on food and cooking, rather than famous judges who, frankly, don't seem to care enough to put the elbow grease into their reviews. In fact, my favorite reviews have been from up-and-coming editors, new authors, and others who have a vested interest in gaining (positive) publicity, and really maximize the platform of Piglet judge by writing a stellar review. They get more publicity and new fans, we get a thoughtful account of the books at hand. Win-win.
Peony11 February 4, 2012
Very well stated, Rivka. The game I play is if I could only buy (or cook) from one of these books which one would it be. The reviews can be serious, funny, whatever. What I respect is the reviewer who can hang out with their biases and give both authors an equal chance to win the round.
ChefJune January 31, 2012
I think it's TRULY unfortunate that someone who doesn't like chiles was asked to judge a Mexican cookbook. Not only is Truly Mexican a VERY easy book to follow, Roberto Santibanez is an extraordinary chef and teacher. And I found the cartoon cute but offensive in this instance. Just my ho.
Victoria C. January 31, 2012
Imagination is not what counts.

What a terrible review. I love both books and certainly don't have any issue with a person choosing Tender over Truly Mexican (although Truly Mexican is TRULY wonderful), but, seriously, a book is judged based on not making the recipe? Ridiculous.

Ms. Chast should have water with her Saltines and peanut butter.
Greenstuff January 31, 2012
The Piglet is a lot of fun, and I don't mind the quirky judges. It's a great reminder that this is all in fun.

But...Round 1's reviews inspired me to buy just one of the books, Truly Mexican. I have a number of Mexican cookbooks, but I've never felt like I "got it" with Mexican cooking. I'd thought the only way to get over my discomfort would be to find a nice old Mexican grandmother who spoke some English to help.

Truly Mexican changed that in a week! I have made the ancho adobo twice (the Whole Foods near me has the most lovely ancho chiles in their bulk bins). I've made tortillas and salsas and guacamoles and cooked pork and fish and chicken and beans in all sorts of ways. Best of all, in just that week, I now feel completely at ease to make my own substitutions and creations. It's a miracle that I just never got with Diana Kennedy.

I never figured that Truly Mexican would make it all the way--it's just not the kind of book that a lot of reviewers were going to love over the ones that have us growing vegetables and eating local, healthy food. But I sure am glad it was part of the mix.
AntoniaJames January 31, 2012
What I love most about The Piglet is how fun it all is. Thank you, Roz, for an epic, all-star performance. And hats off to the tournament organizers for inviting a panel of judges as diverse, and talented in so many ways, as our wonderful FOOD52 community. ;o)
boulangere January 31, 2012
I love Roz Chast's work. In the New Yorker, here, anywhere. And I don't have a problem with her having been asked to participate here as a judge, any more than I did with Andy Borowitz having been the final judge for The Bib (which was pretty genius, actually). Not all food52 participants or readers are professional or even semi-professional cooks. She found Truly Mexican to be beyond her. Nonetheless, I suspect that her review of it may only cement interest on the part of those who are truly curious about it. That said, Tender is a brilliant and beautiful piece of writing.
mcs3000 January 31, 2012
fitsxarts January 31, 2012
brilliant on so many levels. i love this comic and tender is definitely my top pick for the win!