Friday, December 30, 2011

Canning Cookbook Review

One of the most beautiful gifts I received this holiday season was this canning cookbook, from JH: 


Canning for a New Generation offers some exciting recipes for canned foods beyond the classics, along with foods you can pair those canned offerings with. There's peach and cilantro salsa, slow roasted fig preserve, pickled sugar snap peas, and so much more!

It's the kind of book that's worth savoring, both as you look at the photos throughout the text, and as you imagine all the ways you will eat the foods in the seasons to come.

The author also begins the book with an introduction to her own interests in canning and some speculations about why canning has grown more popular in general. Since many of you know I have my own thoughts on these issues, I was really interested to read her take on all of it.

One thing that was off-putting about the book, though, was the authorial voice that often verged on extreme food snob. Take this passage from the introduction, for example:
"The recipes here are for people a little bit like me. For those of us who upon hearing 'pickle' remember Mom's sweet watermelon-rind pickles ice-cold out of the fridge, but also think of the dollop of goodness that goes on top of a bowl of curried lentils, or the dainty dish of tsukemono pickles that might come with the sashimi at a good sushi bar. Those people for whom "ferment" means not just full-sour dills bobbing about in a crock of cloudy brine on the Lower East Side but also spicy red kimchi. And those of us who, while thoroughly enjoying a sweet, thick slather of classic peach preserves on toast every now and then (or, okay, often), might prefer a tart-sweet black plum jam spiked with fragrant cardamom, or a small spoonful of fig preserves with port and rosemary alongside a wedge of veiny blue cheese and a thick slice of dark bread."
That she so clearly identifies herself as this sort of person who celebrates the unusual, and sees this as an identity, rather than as just a way of enjoying food, feels too much like an "us and them" depiction. This cookbook is for people like her, who can afford port and rosemary and veiny blue cheese, who have access to a wide range of food experiences, and who are not just the folks who put up food for the sake of efficiency and thrift. This cookbook is for us, not for them.

You know? What do you think? What is it to be a "food snob"? Are you one? Am I one?