Book Review: Cooking Through the Seasons

In the film “Food, Inc”, Robert Kenner asserts that one way we, as a country, can make positive changes in the corrupt food industry, is to “vote” by shopping a certain way. Buy organic, locally-grown ingredients and, most importantly, buy in season. Don’t encourage the production of genetically modified food or food imported cheaply from other countries by demanding foods that are hard to come by. Americans have become accustomed to having whatever they want when they want it, behaving not unlike spoiled children. Shopping in season is not only good for the farmer and local economy, it also makes it a lot more fun to anticipate a seasonal food. Books like Cooking Light’s “Cooking Through the Seasons; an everyday guide to enjoying the freshest food”, employs that philosophy, and has assembled a collection of recipes to help celebrate the seasons.

While the concept is terrific, in terms of being a functional cookbook, there are a few problems. For one thing, it’s not terribly well organized. The book is logically broken up into sections by season, starting with spring. But if you want to know what to cook with the ingredients you already have, or if you’re looking for, say, a good soup to make for dinner, you pretty much have to read the whole seasonal section to find it. It also doesn’t feel very comprehensive, having only a few recipes per dish per season. It’s really more of a series of suggested menus than a complete guide to seasonal cooking. However, there are certainly some inspired gems. The photography is also quite lovely, making every dish look like a winner. And that is quite a feat considering the calorie-counting implications of Cooking Light.

The book is broken up thus: There are four sections, naturally. Each individual season has a summation page (“The [season] Kitchen”) followed by an “In-Season Chart”, “Flavor Companions”, “Best Ways to Cook” and then the recipes. The “In-Season Chart” is the most helpful of the book’s features. It lists which fruits and veggies to look for at the store and it’s a great way to make a shopping list based on what your personal flavor preferences are.

The “Flavor Companions” section expounds on your shopping list by suggesting accompaniments for the seasonal produce such as cheeses, herbs and sauces. This is also very helpful, especially if you plan to cook seasonally beyond the recipes in the book and maybe even make up some of your own dishes.

The “Best Ways to Cook” section is another con to the book, unless you are really new to cooking. It reads like a beginners’ guide, explaining basic cooking techniques like boiling and grilling. There are a few helpful tips in there, but anyone who cooks their own meals on a regular basis will probably skim through these sections.

Another small criticism of the book is that it’s not particularly vegetarian-friendly. These days, there are so many dietary restrictions around that it seems like it would be in the best interest of new cookbooks to cater to a wide variety of needs besides just the traditional American diet.

That said, this is definitely a terrific book for getting started in the practice of seasonal cooking; a practice which every American should seriously consider taking up.

Cooking Light’s “Cooking Through the Seasons; an everyday guide to enjoying the freshest food” is now available for purchase in hardcover.

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