Pros: Simple recipes, good flavors
Cons: Misses some standard handy cookbook nuances; some flavors seem a little unbalanced
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
First posted 3/3/2005
Review book courtesy of Country Bob’s Sauces.
“The Original Country Bob’s Cookbook” was created to showcase the products put out by Country Bob’s Sauces, a source of “all-purpose sauce” (steak sauce that’s useful for more than just steak), barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and seasoning salt.
This is a sturdy cookbook, a relatively slim hardcover with an attractive, simple layout that makes it easy to decipher the recipes. The food photos (there are a few here and there) aren’t bad, but I call food photography “Hollywood magic” for a reason–making food look good on film is extremely difficult. While the food in these photos certainly looks nicer than some I’ve seen, I’ve also seen better.
One important note: The cover says “Christ is our CEO” and there are bible quotes sprinkled liberally throughout the book. Not everyone will be comfortable with this; if you aren’t, you’ll want to avoid this cookbook. I’m only uncomfortable with this sort of thing if I feel there’s been a bait-and-switch: i.e., I open a product that looks perfectly non-religious and find that I’m being preached at. That isn’t the case here. The writers of this cookbook are perfectly open and honest about their religious leanings–right down to that aforementioned note on the cover–and there isn’t an air of attempting to preach to the non-believer, which I appreciate.
I can be kind of picky about my sauces. I do a lot of cooking and I’ve been to all sorts of restaurants, and I often have strong opinions about my tastes. Thus, I wasn’t expecting to necessarily adore Country Bob’s all-purpose sauce, although I was certainly keeping an open mind. I have to say, however, that this is good stuff! The all-purpose sauce has a delicious, sweet, tangy flavor to it. The spicy hot all-purpose sauce is quite hot, but with that same underlying delicious flavor. Unfortunately the seasoning salt has monosodium glutamate quite high on the list of ingredients, which I prefer to avoid, so I’m unlikely to use it much at all.
My one complaint about the cookbook is easily explained by the fact that it was created for a company’s products and presumably not written by an experienced cookbook author. It misses some small nuances that tend to have a disproportionately large impact on the usability of a cookbook.
For example, a recipe for chip dip doesn’t list chips in the ingredients list. A recipe for cheese balls (meant to be spread on crackers) doesn’t include the crackers in the list of ingredients. Hamburgers don’t mention buns or any optional fixings in the ingredient lists. I know this seems unnecessary to people who are unfamiliar with cookbook-writing; it’s obvious that you need these things, right? But when someone is making out their grocery list they’re often copying things down from the list, and if they’re in any kind of a hurry (or they’re simply a little brain-fogged) they might miss something that isn’t written down there. You really don’t want to get most of the way through cooking your hamburgers only to discover that you’ve forgotten to buy all the fixings.
There’s some inconsistency in notation. Some spices note that they’re used dried or ground, for instance, and others don’t, leaving you to have to guess by the amount that those, too, are to be used dried (or not).
One or two recipes seem to use unusual sizes or amounts of things; one recipe specified a 20 oz can of pumpkin, but I’ve never seen that size anywhere before. That might just be a factor of location, however. Same with the 6 oz can of lemonade concentrate. You can easily get a different-sized can and reverse-engineer the amount with a little math, but it might have been handy to have an actual amount (say, a cup-based measurement) with the equivalent can size.
Recipes and Flavors
I have to admit, these are good recipes. I think my favorite was a recipe involving chicken breast and lemonade concentrate. Chicken isn’t my favorite ingredient, but I ate that dish until I hurt. (Ohhh… memory pains….) However, I did sometimes feel that as much as I enjoyed the recipes, the balance of ingredients was just slightly off. The cheese balls were quite good, but it was hard to actually taste much of the sauce in them; a little more would have been nice. The pumpkin delight (no, the desserts do not use the sauces!) was quite delicious, but overly sweet (and I do not say that about many things). The one recipe we made that used the seasoning salt (a hamburger recipe) just tasted a little… unbalanced… in seasoning, and I’m not even sure how to describe it.
However, I should point out that we still enjoyed all of these dishes, and that such nuances of balance can be a personal taste thing. The only thing we made that we probably wouldn’t make again was the hamburger recipe; everything else (including a chip dip as well) was quite solidly good.
Most of the recipes make a fair amount of food; they’re perfect for a large family, or you can freeze some for another time (we still have some burgers and cheese balls in the freezer for another week; luckily I thought to make a half-recipe of the chicken). Sections include, simply: Appetizers, soups, and snacks; grilling; main dishes; and desserts. Many recipes involve the use of packaged mixes, soups, or concentrates, and they’re quick and easy. You can make creamy oven-baked chicken, down home chili, corn pone pie, venison steaks, Honolulu Bob burgers, black bean soup, Olivia’s egg drop soup, pickled eggs, slow-cooker orange honey chicken, butternut cake, easy apple crunch, frozen fruit salad, and more. As you can see, it’s an interesting mix of the expected and the unusual.
If I were to take this simply as a cookbook and compare it to all the other cookbooks I’ve ever used, I’d probably give it a three out of five because of all those missed nuances that make things a bit harder on the cook. However, for a cookbook meant to showcase a product I’d probably give it four out of five, because frankly for that kind of cookbook this isn’t an unusual issue to have, and these recipes make delicious use of a wonderful product. I’ll compromise and call my rating 3.5. If you like the company’s sauces and don’t mind the religious aspect of the text, this is a good source of recipes.