Sunday, February 18, 2007

not a speck of decent chocolate

long-time readers know that sometimes, for reasons i cannot fathom, publishers send me food books to review. i can't really call them cookbooks, alas.

unfortunately chick-lit has bred this really terrible offshoot, a form of memoir that includes recipes from the chick's past. half the time, they never actually make these recipes; rather, they come from said chick's grandmother or some distant relative, which somehow makes them more authentic "heritage."

thus i have the distinguished nonpleasure of staring at the latest addition to this regrettable genre, marge piercy's new book on passover.

after struggling through a couple of chapters in this book, i finally just turned to the over-brief dessert section. naturally, in line with this blog, i went looking for the chocolate recipes.

personally i always associate passover with a certain kind of delicious flourless chocolate cake, one version of which i've given here before. the only chocolate recipe piercy gives is a brownie recipe that she herself instantly admits "does not make great brownies by conventional brownie standards. . .but its virtue is that it's chocolate and quick."

naturally this is not an approach that would appeal to us at bccy.

i would leave my review here, but in honesty, i feel i must describe the book more fully to warn otherwise innocent readers. piercy generally makes over the classic jewish holiday with as many of the preachiest, most self-indulgent and p.c. tones possible.

it becomes all about her, the standard chick-lit tactic. i imagine it might be mildly offensive to jewish people who take their traditions seriously.

even i who live in nyc find it unbearably self-righteous. does everything nowadays have to be so unendurably politicized?

if i celebrated passover, or thought about trying it, this book would just put me off. in her most self-congratulatory voice, piercy offers mainly vague recipes that promise only bland renditions of traditional european foods.

by this i mean she actually has a recipe in which she discusses whether to use garlic or not. and others where she uses canned fruit.

as if it's 1955, which appears where piercy's notion of food has stopped. i mean, no one cooks like this anymore -- i hope.

and as is the course for books of this type, she includes recipes that she herself has never made(!), have almost no real instructions or directions, and refers people to j. nathan's more famous holiday cookbook.

so i honestly can't say why she bothered with this arrant gabfest, except that piercy likes to talk about herself. as anyone who has endured her, um, poetry, has learned with pain.

and endure it you must, as she unfortunately includes great swaths of it here. it is enough really to make you appreciate the grandeur and formal beauty of those traditional texts she spends so much time scorning as irrelevant and not meaningful to contemporary lives.

if you are a casual culturally jewish person or just someone interested in food traditions, you couldn't learn much useful about the passover dinner from this book, as she scarcely bothers to explain the basics.

and this is a deep flaw in a book called "pesach for the rest of us." who is this us, marge?

how many of "us" are still obsessed with baby-boomer hippie-commune inside baseball from the reagan era?

or as an example, who is susannah heschel and why does anyone care what happened with her in 1977? (actually, i know who the learned ms. heschel is; she is a famous scholar.)

i find piercy's book a waste of time. if you want hip, up-to-date, and useful info on this topic, i'd rather send you over to cool blogs like velveteen rabbi or baraita.

from there you can hook yourself into a whole community of awesome modern jewish cooking girls; it won't begin and end with marge, marge, marge.

please, book publicists, if you must send me stuff, can't it be like, a real cookbook? something more tish boyle?

she's a whiz with chocolate, lives in bklyn, and sports stylin' leopard-print belgian loafers.

Tags: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

posted by fortune | 9:19 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 2 comments

Links to this post:

Create a Link