"How to Repair Food," Bear and Zeryck

Pros: Hilarious; incredibly useful
Cons: Could be bigger and more thorough
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review first published 8/3/2001

“How to Repair Food” is exactly what it sounds like. It will tell you how to fix things when your food goes wrong. Even better, it will also tell you how to do things right the next time, so your food won’t go wrong in the first place. Best yet, it’s so funny you’ll read entries aloud to your spouse for laughs!

Organization

I have found entries very easy to locate in this book. They’re alphabetical, and often when something is not where you expect it to be it’ll be cross-indexed (“see such-and-such”). Entries are relatively short and to the point, with different problems and their solutions clearly and easily delineated for quick reference. There are several pages of blank lines in the back for your own tip notes. My only gripe is that there is no index – but then things are so well cross-indexed that this is rarely a problem.

Thoroughness

I do wish that this book were larger; I’m sure there’s so much more that could be covered. However, despite its small size (134 pages, roughly 5×8.5″), this book manages to cover a great deal of ground. As an example, let’s see what we’ll find under “A”:

  • Abalone (see also Fish and Seafood)
  • Abalone Chowder recipe [did I mention recipes are included?]
  • Alcohol (see also Wine)
  • Almonds; see Nuts
  • Anchovies
  • Apples, Cooked
  • Apples, Raw
  • Artichoke
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Asparagus Risotto recipe
  • Timbale D’Asperges recipe
  • Oriental Salad recipe
  • Aspic; see Gelatin
  • Avocados

The recipes are all quick & easy little things that you can throw together in no time flat. Many of them are ways to fix broken recipes – for example, the “timbale d’asperges” recipe is one of their suggestions for how to handle overcooked asparagus!

The Sorts of Things It Covers

I’ll start with the “Eggs, Boiled” entry, since that’s what I just opened to. The first problem listed is “cracked before cooking.” Believe it or not, you can wrap the egg in foil and twist the ends to keep it shut, then boil as normal and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. The entry goes on to address “cracked during cooking,” “crumbly, difficult to slice,” “difficult to peel,” “discoloring” (both prevention and cure!), “off-center yolks” (prevention only), “too many” and “undercooked.” Many entries even have suggestions for when you discover you don’t have enough of something, and the bacon entry tells you what to do if it catches on fire!

The authors always do their best, where possible, to address both prevention methods and curatives. That way you can fix the mess you already have on your hands, and then avoid it the next time. They also provide ways to hide your mistakes when you can’t just fix them, turning one dish into another, equally appetizing (and not ruined) dish.

The Writing

The writing is clear and concise. The entries are generally brief and to-the-point. But best of all, this book has a very ironic and snarky sense of humor in places:

Like building a perpetual-motion machine and trisecting the angle, devising a recipe for overcooked Brussels sprouts had long been thought to be impossible. We have finally cracked the O.B.S. (Overcooked Brussels Sprouts) barrier!

Last but not least, let me leave you with a small story that seems to fit the book and its attitude. I heard this from a friend, so I have no idea where it came from or how accurate it is. Anyway, there was someone who tried to automate the pastry-making process for a bakery. Some pastry chefs came in to taste the result, and deemed it unfit. The person programming the machinery asked them what they did when they made mistakes when baking. They said they just covered it with chocolate. So the man programmed his machinery to detect when something had come out wrong and cover it with chocolate. Sure enough, the next time the chefs came to the tasting, they thought everything was great!

So it just goes to show, kitchen disasters don’t have to be disasters. Let this book show you the way.

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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