The Book: Ceil Dyer, BEST RECIPES FROM THE BACKS OF BOXES, BOTTLES, CANS, AND JARS. Galahad Books, 1993 (reprint; originally published in three volumes, in 1979, 1981 and 1982). Fine condition.
First read: 1993 (approximately)
Owned since: 1997 (approximately)
For sheer reading entertainment, this is my favorite cookbook. My mother bought a couple of copies as Christmas presents for two of my sisters soon after it came out; I liked it so much, I asked for my own copy.
I don't think I've ever made anything out of it, but I love to read it. The book is exactly what the title says: recipes using prepared foods, copied from product labels. Some of it's a little ridiculous, but most of the recipes are perfectly straightforward: the lasagne recipe off the back of a Mueller's lasagne noodles package is easy and classic. The recipe for Chicken Cacciatore from a Progresso Olive Oil bottle sounds great -- if I liked Chicken Cacciatore, which I don't. (Bad associations -- Mom's one attempt at it caused a kitchen fire in our Fairfax home when I was six.)
Some of the recipes are shameful, though -- or shameless, depending on your perspective. "Summer Salad" (p. 263) calls for a can of peach halves, a can of pear halves, a can of sliced pineapple, and thinly sliced Armour Golden Star canned ham, mixed with sour cream and horseradish and served on a bed of iceberg lettuce. It might taste pretty good, but I couldn't serve it to anyone unless I pretended it was ironic. Oh, and you can make your own gourmet concoction by mixing Campbell's Green Pea soup with Campbell's Tomato Soup, a cup of milk and a dash of curry powder. If you try that at home, invite me for some other night...
What I Read This Week
Sue Grafton, T IS FOR TRESPASS. I had quit reading this series for a while, but picked this one up because someone told me it was Grafton's best in years. It's excellent, even if you haven't read books A-S. California private investigator Kinsey Millhone investigates a home health care provider who's looking after an aged neighbor, and winds up confronting a sociopathic identity thief. The book switches points of view between Kinsey's first-person narration and a third-person narrative from the health care worker's point of view, and it's genuinely suspenseful and chilling.