Book Review: “Weeknights with Giada” by Giada de Laurentiis (2012)

Once again, I am branching out a little bit more than normal by reviewing a cookbook. It isn’t theology, but food has always been a side passion of mine. And ever since I lost cable in preference for money, I have definitely missed my Food Network and all the personalities portrayed there, including Giada, always a favorite. Because I can no longer get the video portrayal of how to make a “simple” and authentically Italian pasta meal from scratch in twenty-two minutes, I have found myself reverting to the old-school method of dish preparation: reading cookbooks. And honestly, I’m glad I have, because doing so has allowed me to take my time with the recipes and actually have a chance to replicate what the author has created. Because let’s be honest: cooking shows are entertaining to watch, but unless a person has a photographic memory, he’s not going to recall all the steps and ingredients of the dishes he’s watched; and unless it’s something really special, he’s probably not going online to check it either.

And so I picked up Giada’s latest book.  Titled Weeknights with Giada, it is obviously a book dedicated to the routinely non-spectacular weeknights occasionally spent with family over haphazard meals of frozen lasagnas and Chinese takeout. Perhaps the greatest aspect of Giada’s book, even beyond the recipes, was the focus the book had on Giada’s own family. As one watches those cooking shows, he may find it occasionally difficult to picture the chefs as real people who have to whip meals up in a jiffy for their own spouses and kids. But in this book, one can see that top notch celebrity chefs really are people and they really do have lives off-network. In Weeknights, the reader gets to meet Giada’s husband, Todd, and daughter, Jade, and to read explanations of when and why she has prepared each of these dishes for them. Call me sentimental, but I like that.

Of course, as an amateur cook, I find it easy to find fault with some of Giada’s recipes. As per the norm for cooking shows and cookbooks these days, Giada often calls for higher-end ingredients in her recipes that simply aren’t in my budget: fresh herbs, specialty cheeses and micro greens. Certainly, I would never want to entertain Giada at my house with Dollar Store dried herbs, old mozzarella, and iceberg lettuce, but since she has yet to respond to my persistent invitations, these ingredients are good enough for me.

Another slight fault I found with Giada’s book is also based entirely on my amateurism: I don’t think she had enough pictures of the food she was preparing. In fact, it ends up being about one picture for every three recipes, and that’s just not cool. Though I’ve got an active imagination, I work very well in pictures, and so I generally flip through a cookbook in search of what looks good. Only then do I check the ingredients to see if I can even make it. Her titles and directions are certainly clear enough for the experienced chef who thinks that way, but I’d like to see the food she’s making.

All in all, this book is grand for someone who likes light Italian meals. But probably even more so, it is grand for someone who is a fan of Giada de Laurentiis. And most guys who watch the Food Network probably are.

©2011 E.T.

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