Return @3001. I'm very excited to announce the re-publication of A Return to Cooking — which I wrote with Eric Ripert, a cookbook-story exploring the art of cooking — in a new, gorgeous, affordable soft-cover format, it's cover brandishing like a flag Anthony Bourdain's endoresment: "One of the most truly remarkable cookbooks of the last two decades."  Tony, just curious, why two decades?!

2. To sweeten the pot of my SOS giveaway, I will add to the offer a copy of the above book.  So three of the people who donate to this excellent and valuable hunger relief organization will be chosen at random to receive a copy of my new book Ratio, a My Weigh KD-8000 scale, AND a copy of A Return to Cooking. Tomorrow, Thursday, April 30 is the final day for donations! We live in a country with bountiful resources.  No one should be hungry.  Please donate to Share Our Strength and try to attend the dinners held by chefs throughout the country to raise money to fight hunger.

3.  I was given the opportunity to preach about scales in the  Los Angeles Times.  For all we spend on expensive pans and knives, not to mention mango slicers, cherry pitters, egg separators and pie bakers, it continues to astonish me that we don't relegate some of that kitchen cash to a truly valuable kitchen tool (link above to the scale I use and recommend).

4. Two reviews of Ratio are out today.  One in my beloved New York Times by Craig Seligman, the other in The Washington Post by Bonnie Benwick, both respectful but with caveats.  The review in The Times says Ratio is "an elegant book on technique, though not one for beginners."  Agreed, though I would clarify that to say, it is for any beginners who want to learn to cook better.  And I am still taken to task for using French terms to describe universal techniques, as if to say "his ideas are right—if only he'd say them in English."  I'm happy to reiterate Mr. Seligman's claim that  I am "out of step with the 20-minute meals approach of most new cookbooks."  Would that more cookbooks were so out of touch!  And one final note to copy desk: excellent headline! "Everyday Cooking As Easy As 3-2-1."

Ms. Benwick's very thoughtful review convey's the same message, which I agree with and note in the book: cooks who want to improve need to be flexible and comfortable with many variables. (And she calls Donna's photos "stunning"! — Thank you, Donna!)SOS_vertical

5. And this from the Ultimate Benevolent Critic, my mom, in an email today: "I liked the story, photos of you & your book in The Times and agree, it is not for beginners, but I have mastered the stock ratio which encourages me! Look forward to getting a chart which I will frame."  Thanks, Ma! And huge thanks to you bloggers for your own thoughtful reviews of Ratio—I'm grateful to those who have given my book such thoughtful attention, among them Foodie at Fifteen, Macheesmo, Kitchen Parade, Steamy Kitchen, Homesick Texan, and Simply Recipes.

6.  The chart of which of which my mom spoke is that of the dough and batter ratios, which are the most elegant group of ratios, in my opinion, expressing a continuum that I'd never realized existed.  Please note: we've only got about ten more charts left, and can't accept orders after today.  They're 11-by-14 inches on glossy photographic paper.  After those are gone that's it.  But I will be putting a high rez PDF on this site as soon as I get my act together.  For those who've ordered charts, they will all be going out today and tomorrow.  Sorry for the delay!

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18 Wonderful responses to “SOS, Ratio Reviews, and the Return of Return”

  • Michele Niesen

    A Return to Cooking inspired me to open my first restaurant, even though what inspired Ripert to write this was that the restaurant nearly stole his love for “cooking”… But it remains firmly planted on the coffee table. It’s salacious, lusty and makes you yearn for the journey. Kind of like a good meal.

  • John White "JW"

    As an avid home cook, I can’t thank you enough for Ratio. I typically cook for my family 5 to 6 nights per week and generally follow recipes. Some of my favorites of course I know by heart, but whenever I want to make a crepe or a pancake or a muffin or flat bread etc…I will spend a ridiculous amount of time scouring books for the best “recipe”. I received by copy of Ratio last week and read cover to cover on the plane to and from Jazz Fest NOLA. While in NOLA I had a wonder crawfish goatcheese crepe at Muriel’s on Jackson Square and thought to myself, I can do this, no problem. After all, isn’t a crepe 1 part liquid, 1 part egg, 1/2 part flour…Tonight I made goat cheese stuffed crepes with butter poached lobster tails with a curry coconut sauce, I never cracked a book, I only used my imagination and the knowledge gained from “Ratio”. Thanks again!

  • Tags

    -
    Is that two decades before now or two decades before the original publication?

  • Nate

    I want one of those charts and a book or two. How do I go about ordering these things?

  • carri

    I have given ‘Return to Cooking’ to friends who are both artists and cooks as it speaks so well to both, it is a beautiful book! I also just recieved my Ratio Chart and it, too, is inspiring and beautiful! Thank You!

  • Natalie Sztern

    Michael why not ask the publisher to take over the chart and attach it to the book and increase the price accordingly? for those that already bought the book but not the chart: have some for sale alongside the books already stocked?

    To me it is just another way of making the book more desireable, if that is possible

  • 19thandfolsom

    Hi Michael,

    I was reading through the NYT review over breakfast and this section caught my eye, primarily because I have to disagree with it:

    As for the “everyday cooking” the subtitle trumpets, there are extensive discussions of pâte à choux, crepes, beurre manié, slurry, mousseline, hollandaise, crème anglaise — everyday cooking if you happen to cook in a French restaurant. …

    On the same page that he declares stock “the foundation upon which all else rests,” he concedes, rather dejectedly, that “it may be the most commonly avoided preparation in American home kitchens.”

    Pate a choux, creme anglaise, etc. – having grown up with zero exposure to French cooking, these are all cooking components that seemed alien to me until I started reading The French Laundry Cookbook and The Making of a Chef, and started getting intrigued by them. The explorations in Ratio demystified the preparations and got me all excited to try them–I’m going to a potluck next week and I’m thinking of cream puffs (pate a choux, creme patisserie) or eclairs (pate a choux, creme patisserie, chocolate sauce), which are ratio-recipes and have room for infinite variations (orange-infused chocolate sauce on the eclairs?)!

    And making stock is dead easy. I don’t know why it’s “the most commonly avoided” preparation in the home kitchen (barring constraints of money, time, cooking space, etc.).

    P.S. I wrote about my experience with Ratio here – hardly as structured as a review, but definitely enthusiastic.

  • Rhonda

    Michael:

    Congratulations on the re-publication of “A Return To Cooking”. Will you be offering posters of Eric Ripert with purchase? Lifesize would be nice. Just sayin’…

    I respectfully disagree with the criticism regarding the usefulness of “Ratio” to the beginner cook. In fact, I believe it is the beginner cook who will have the most to gain from Ratio in the long run.

    The market is saturated with books that promise great results, instill bad habits and leave them disappointed and somewhat hesitant to learn more.

    A beginner cook will have the opportunity to learn how think for themselves from the outset and may escape the traps laid by the Sandra Lee’s of the world who make money off of unsuspecting people and poison them in the process.

    Will the beginner cook use the book the same way as the more advanced cook or even the professional? Not immediately but eventually. However, they will have a firm foundation to build on and when they read recipes in other books they will be able to recognize the basic relation of each ingredient to the other and how the recipe was constructed from there.

    I also respectfully disagree that this book will not appeal to the “20 minute crowd”. After one has learned the ratio, the speed at which you can create in the kitchen will be greatly enhanced. Once again, not immediately but inevitably.

    No one would expect to have a cursory reading of music theory and then sit down at the piano and play Rachmaninoff. Why should cooking be any different?

    Ratio has a place in every cooks kitchen regardless of skill level.

  • Marlene

    Congratulations Michael on the reviews. You deserve the kudos!

    I’m glad people are finding the book useful!

  • Mrs. T.

    Re. point no 1: YAY! I’m elated at the re-publication of the Ripert book! I tried to buy the original once on Amazon a while back but it was 20 billion dollars, couldn’t afford. But now I can. Again, YAY!

    Re. point no 3: You got that right. Seriously, most kitchen gadgets aren’t necessary as they are often limited in their functions; I find it easier to just develop good knife skills and techniques. Something like a scale, on the other hand, is a great addition, because it has numerous applications.

  • luis

    Wow a limited chart edition? coool.. I will frame my signed copy in a glass enclosed frame. HOT DOG!!!!!

    I have a KD-7000 scale and it is a great scale, easy and fun to use.

    My pizza doughs now are by ratio and by weight.
    I have noticed a marked difference from the old way I used (by volume).

    This ratio/weight dough I can knuckle and fling around like a pizziola. To me that proves my dough is getting close to were it needs to be.

    Ratio is my desk reference book forever right next to the Elements.

    I did look over Rippert’s new book. It’s a great book full of great cooking. It seemed to me that the recipes I saw had quite a number of ingredients which is to be expected from someone the caliber of Rippert.

    I am not sure my palate would pick up half of the ingredients. I am not averse to having a more detailed look a this book in case I got the wrong first impression?

  • Wm

    Michael, I got the chart last week and love it. Thanks to both you and Donna.

    An art conservator friend was over for dinner two days ago and told me that the cardboard you ship the chart with is not acid free, so the chart shouldn’t stay next to the board for too long. For those who have ordered one, get it framed pronto! (She loved the chart, btw!)

  • dadekian

    That’s great that “Return” is getting a softcover, hopefully it will reach a much wider audience at that price point (I was thrilled to get it as a gift years ago). Perhaps PBS can offer it as a “gift” when they have a pledge week near Ripert’s new show?

    My chart’s getting framed now, though I’m thinking I might print a smaller version to have at hand on the counter. Something disposable when I cover it in egg and flour. I just realized as I typed this I got a print before Michael’s mom! Thanks!

  • kristin

    As someone who owns a hardbound edition of ‘A Return to Cooking’ I can truly say from experience what a great cookbook it is. It is an absolutely gorgeous book with beautiful pictures and delicious recipes.

    BTW, I think a scale is the most underrated item one has in the kitchen.