Generation Eats: Great Recipes for a Fast Forward Culture
by Amy Rosen
Published by Firefly Books
Never Let 'em See You Sweat
The essence of cool is that no one should see you sweat. Cool is an effortless endeavor and if it looks like you're working at cool, you're not. It's -- like -- one of the rules.
Generation Eats by Amy Rosen is sweating all over the place. An inviting -- albeit Gen X-y-looking -- cover yields disappointment from the first page. The inside pages are "cool" to the point of boring and hard-to-read, the typesetting is simultaneously in-your-face and over-the-top and the very 90s pages feature trendily out-of-focus food photos that are mostly reproduced in black and white.
Adding to the "If only we were cool" feel are the terribly "happenin'" names the recipes have been given. Salmon-chanted evening for a recipe for Dijon Salmon Fillets. Retro loaf for -- of course -- a meatloaf and Jolly green salad for a Spinach Salad.
In the introduction, Rosen sums it up herself:
Here's my pitch: this is a cookbook like no other. Fresh and hip, it's half art, half food, and all attitude.
While the "half art" is an overstatement, in my experience anything that has to tell you it's fresh and hip isn't. Fresh and hip -- like cool -- largely speak for themselves.
Another sentiment from the introduction brings us closer to the mark:
Most of all, I wrote this book for people who don't know how to cook (including most of my friends), because it kills me to see them ordering in lousy food when they can be cooking themselves a great dinner in half the time it takes the delivery guy to show up with the soggy pizza box.
With the cool out of the way, Rosen's writing is sincere and her understanding of food is very good. The recipes included are mainly designed to be prepared and ready-to-serve in under an hour. As well, the instructions are easy to follow and most of the meals -- even the exotic ones -- are made with things readily available in most kitchens.
The food included runs from fun snack-y things you might make quickly for yourself (Bruschetta, Green Tomatoes and Gravy, Sweet Potato "Fries") to fairly elegant meals (Out of This World Cashew Chicken, Tabbouleh, Salade Nicoise) that could be served to friends with fanfare. Vegetarians will find a lot of meatless choices and many cultures are represented: it's all sort of modern fusion done to the max.
Rosen has a B.A. in journalism from King's College. She also has a Certificate in Basic Cuisine from the Mecca of all foodies: Le Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School. So, a writer doing a cookbook: that's nothing new. It's her other B.A. that gives us a bit of trouble in this book, however. The one in Film and Communication from McGill University is perhaps what prompted her to include movie reviews in her cookbook. Every recipe has been given three film pairings, each with their own mini-review. For instance, the Dijon Salmon Fillets are "paired" with The Little Mermaid, A Fish Called Wanda and On the Waterfront. Yawn.
The concept seems a little tired to me. In an age when we take a broader view of what wines might be nice with what foods, it seems archaic and a little overworked to suggest that certain foods might taste better with certain films.
Overall, Generation Eats seems to me to be a book about potentials. Rosen strikes me as a talented writer who knows food well. We hope she doesn't work quite so hard on her next book.
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of Mad Money.