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The Blue Strawberry Cookbook: One bit of conceptual continuity in my life that you may have picked up on is my interest in cookbooks that purport to teach you how to improvise instead of just listing a bunch of recipes. I think I've now collected all the books mentioned in that old entry except for the Anderson, and the Sindel/Splichal I think I got rid of when we moved to New York. The most recent acquisition was The Blue Strawberry Cookbook, via the always-recommended BookMooch, through which I was able to get rid of 62 books in 2007.

Like many books that claim to have no recipes, this book in fact has recipes, but they're not presented in the traditional Joy of Cooking form but in a narrative like you sometimes see when I write recipes, with many hooks for improvisation. The odd thing about this book is that it's a book from the mid-70s, which means it's stuck in the 70s and in a French culinary model that's very sauce-heavy. There is a trick for making sauces in the blender which is used to great effect throughout the book.

The author asserts that "if it's fresh it's nutritious", which unfortunately is not true! The Blue Strawberry Cookbook unflinchingly applies this logic to, eg. butter. Most of the sauce recipes start out "Melt a stick of butter." That's on top of a recipe that often has another half-stick or stick of butter in it.

To boil a potato and then mash it is insultingly mundane; but who doesn't like mashed potatoes? The next time you make them, bake the potatoes in their skins until soft, then scoop the meat out of the skins, add milk and butter and salt and pepper, and mash them that way. Much more taste and much better for you.

"Nooo!" "Nooo!" Mashed potatoes with butter are the vegetable equivalent of fudge. Interesting idea to bake them instead of boiling, though.

Basically there are lots of good ideas in this book, and an inspirational spirit of off-the-cuff invention, but now I think I know why the 70s were so greasy. I don't think it's true that any arbitrary flavor combinations will taste fine, as BSC claims, but this book has gotten me to do more experimentation when cooking and less a priori thinking about what might work well together.

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