In my seemingly constant state of ‘busy’, I often refer to projects I’m involved with that I don’t always share in this space for a variety of reasons. Occasionally though, some of those mysterious projects do manage to see the light of day here. I’m excited to share a project that while I was only minorly involved in, resulted in my name in print. And when I say print, I mean, published in a book print, as in a cookbook – my very favorite type of book.
My blog friend Kristy of She Eats mentioned more than a few months ago that she was writing a cookbook and needed testers. I quickly volunteered, because, hello, recipe testing? That’s something I already do quite a bit of for the classes I teach, so I welcomed the opportunity to try out something that wasn’t necessarily geared towards how busy it would keep 20 kids for an hour. And with Kristy’s theme of using booze in every recipe, these recipes most definitely weren’t geared towards kids.
I was also fascinated by a peek into the process of writing a cookbook. I have a bit of a collection of them, which I tend to sit down and read the way other people read novels. As a cooking instructor, I know the importance to having a clearly written recipe – and among my free lance writing credits was a special issue promoting Restaurant Week for a now defunct local alt-weekly in which I was tasked with collecting recipes from area chefs and making sure they would work as written for a home cook. That sounds easy enough, but the reality is, the ability to cook is not linked to the ability to be able to tell others in a clear manner how to cook. Cooking for a living means a having a certain skill set that is far above many home cooks. As someone who has taught or assisted in scores of cooking classes over the years, I’ve learned that most home cooks are apprehensive to variate from a written recipe, or just flat out don’t know where to begin if they were so inclined to variate. Writing an actual cookbook is an art that requires the ability to both cook and write. Unless of course, you’re Kristy and take it to a whole other level of photographing the whole damn thing yourself.
Yeah, she’s all that. With a bourbon soaked cherry on top.
But I digress.
Every week for months, Kristy sent out recipes to be tested to her crack team of volunteer testers. We let her know at the onset how many recipes a week we could commit to testing and which categories appealed to us the most. We had a week in which to make said recipe and return to her a feedback form, along with photos of the finished product. Along the way, I worried that I sometimes sent feedback that was maybe too honest, although she assured me it was all good. Of course, I’ve not met her in person, so for all I know, she could have been cursing me behind my back, BUT, as I hold her magnificent book in my hands, I couldn’t help but notice the influence of said feedback. Specifically in the name of “Fiesta Boozy Guac”. Yeah, we tested that recipe, which was simply known as “Boozy Guac at the time. It was a smash it and in my feedback I wrote, “Edie thought the name of the gauc should be “Feista Guac”. She ate what was left with a spoon and may have licked the bowl clean.” Clearly, she took that feedback to heart, which is fantastic considering that’s now our go-to guac recipe.
Some of Kristy’s recipes were a little more involved than my preferred one paragraph of instruction, one pot meals. Not that that is a bad thing – it’s good to be pushed out of one’s comfort (okay, lazy) zone on occasion, especially when one has to follow a recipe to a T. I’m the sort of cook who looks at recipes as suggestions, nothing absolute. But part of testing recipes for a cookbook meant making sure they worked as written, which may have been more challenging to me than the fact that these recipes weren’t my usual one pot fare. I’ve always had a hard time coloring in-between the lines and following the rules.
The photos sent with feedback didn’t need to be of publishable quality, which was excellent news for me, because as we all know, I’m a lazy food photographer who puts zero effort into making sure my dinners are styled and photographed. By the time dinner is served, we’re all so ready to eat I have about 30 seconds or so to grab a shot of the finished meal in my poorly lit house.
Some weeks though, I would get so involved in cooking, I would set my camera aside until it was time to put together my feedback. There was at least one week where much to my horror, I discovered I had zero shots of the final product! Other weeks found me sharing my disaster of a kitchen with Kristy so she could feel like she was here with me. I’m pretty sure towards the end of the testing phase, Kristy would see my email in her inbox, sigh and pour herself a drink before seeing what form my feedback took this week.
But that process ended months and months ago. Cooking With Cocktails was finally released last week and I’m excited to finally have it in my hands.
It is a beautiful cookbook, fully written AND photographed by Kristy. It was a fun process and one I’m glad Kristy involved me in. Now that I have the finished product in my hands, I can see some of the recipes I missed out on testing that I’m looking forward to making. As you can see from my photo above, I’ve already started marking the book up with our favorites and what are sure to become favorites. In addition to fiesta guac, the pizza dough recipe in Margherita “Margarita” pizza has become a standard in my kitchen. The Pumpkin Pots de Creme, Mushroom Thyme Sherry Soup and St. Rita Quesadillas were also big hits that have seen repeat performances.
I’m not going to share any recipes, but there is a blog tour going down, with giveaways (!), should you want to take a chance on winning yourself a copy. Check out Kristy’s post and follow the links around the interwebs.
In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here with a glass of wine perusing my copy, plotting my happy hour and dinner pairings….