The progression from food blogger to cook book author does not happen as often or as frequently as you would think. In fact, Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz show us that the progression is usually in the opposite direction. (And we’re still waiting on The Ina.) The big time cookbook world is difficult to break into and very competitive. While this blog is living proof that anyone with an email address and a camera can start a food blog, to author a cookbook you have to actually bring something new and unique to the party in order to attract the attentions of a cookbook publisher. The built-in audience they look for doesn’t come simply by parroting something found elsewhere and talking about it! As you can imagine ‘cookbook stalking’ doesn’t carry the same sense of flattery that ‘blog stalking’ has in the blogging world!
So it is something of an achievement worth celebrating when a food blogger actually breaks out with a cookbook. Similarly, it is not very often that I am sent a cookbook to review. In fact, the last time this happened was, well, never. The intelligent powers that be at Quirk Books must really want to reach out to the 10 of you who actually read this blog so they generously sent me a copy of blogger Matt Armendariz' new, photo-rich book "On a Stick!" [Quirk Books; May 3, 2011; $16.95] for my comment.
As the title suggests, "On a Stick!" features all manner of party food, street food, and (ok I’ll say it) junk food that you can serve on a stick. One visit to your county fair and you can see that America has a love affair with food on a stick. The unofficial motto of “On a Stick”, inferred throughout, is “foods on a stick just taste better”. And while Matt is the first to admit that there is no science to back up this lofty claim, he really doesn’t need it, does he? We all know its true
. Human beings come ‘hardwired’ to enjoy our foods on a stick. Every since our ancestors first celebrated their fresh kill by roasting it on a branch we have been equating en brochette eating (and all similar methods of food eating) as being a good time. No wonder children find it irresistible. It is their evolutionary birthright.
Every photograph Matt serves up is just plain beautiful. This should be no surprise to those who follow him at his successful blog Matt Bites as in addition to authoring his very successful blog he makes his trade a professional food photographer. Each photo not only serves as your more typical ‘serving suggestion’ example but is also a primer for budding food photographers looking to get schooled on setup,
composition, lighting, exposure, and how to make food look as good as it tastes . If eating on a stick is supposed to be fun the photos had better be fun as well and “On a Stick” does not disappoint. Each photo makes you wish you were invited to a party at Matt’s house. You can bet that going forward I’ll be going back to this book time and again to up my own photographic game.
The real beauty of the “On a Stick” however is not in the colorful photographs which inspire us to prepare one of Matt’s uncomplicated recipes. “On a Stick” achieves its mission by empowering its readers to “think off the plate” for themselves. With 80 examples we are shown how to throw traditional food form-factor out the window in favor of its on-a-stick alternat
e. Everything from salads, pastas, cakes and just about anything you can think of can be deconstructed and repurposed for eating on a stick. Matt shows us how.
Yes, the classics such as corndogs, cheese fondue and lollypops are here as well as numerous tasty versions of skewered meat dishes but once you see Matt's beautiful photos of Spaghetti and Meatballs (pictured above left), Panzanella (pictured above), Pizza skewers, Molotes, Fudge
Puppies, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and countless others will you begin to realize that the only limitation to this fun food genre is your imagination.
If I have any criticism of the book it would the that in his efforts to to keep the everything as simple and as unintimidating as possible Aremendariz has occasionally left out a detail I would consider helpful. How many minutes do you cook a quail egg to hard boil it? Also, when planning a party (and you will want to throw one immediately) it would be nice to reference an estimated prep time for each recipe as you consider your resource allocation. Similarly, after marveling at the sheer variety of sticks and skewers featured in the introduction and in the pretty photographs a ‘where to buy’ feature would come in handy. If you are like me you will be running out to buy as many as you can. (I spent my Sunday afternoon searching for sugarcane sticks but couldn’t find them except online. They aren’t just for mojitos anymore! ) Ultimately, none of these questions can't be answered with a quick Google search so perhaps that explains the choice to omit here?
It goes without saying that parents of picky children will appreciate the inspiration and implied permission Matt gives us to put just about anything you can think to cook on a stick to make it irresistible to kids. Whether your a parent or just looking for fun foods to entertain you will find your inspiration for fun foods here.
"On a Stick!" Matt Armendariz; Quirk Books; May 3, 2011; $16.95 Available on Amazon.