Cookbook Review: D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington

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When city life starts to wear me down, my go-to escapist fantasy is to somehow have the time, space and energy to make everything. I mean everything. This idea was probably covered on an episode of Portlandia, but I’ll give you a quick run down. First you should imagine a farm, then a house built by me and a crowd of handy friends; the house is filled with hand-crafted furniture and blankets and dishes and clothes and toys and books and jewelry and…food.

The food part of the fantasy is really the most important. You won’t find any factory-processed foods in the cupboards. There’s probably a pantry and an ice box, and those are filled with 100 percent homemade goodness. Everything has been made from scratch. The spices are grown in the kitchen garden and then ground by hand using a mortar and pestle. The alcohol is distilled in the barn. The coffee… That’ll be hard to grow. My utopia won’t fly without coffee. Wait, the farm has just transported to Hawaii, so I’m back on track, and I see an avocado tree in the back yard. Now I’ll need a lot of friends to help with the farming and cooking.

Vanessa Barrington and the folks at Chronicle Books must have had their own homestead survivalist fantasies, which led to D.I.Y. Delicious (2010). Barrington covers more than 40 base ingredient recipes, ranging from aioli to kimchi, and then folds those ingredients into 40 more recipes that look crazy delicious, like Sustainable Seafood Stew with Meyer Lemon and Parsley Aioli Croutons and Spicy Soft Tofu Soup with Kimchi. Sara Remington’s gorgeous photographs seal the deal. This is a book worth owning, if you’re longing to bring a kind of Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-meets-Anthony-Bourdain flair to your kitchen. That’s a little weird to imagine the two of them together, but maybe it could have worked, in another time and place.

D.I.Y. Delicious makes returning to this time and place a little easier, because you have to stay present and focused if you expect to properly chop all of the fresh ingredients. We’re looking forward to trying many of the recipes, especially the cheeses and breads. And the condiments. And the drinks chapter looks really good. Here I go again…

Elise Roth Edwards writes, paints, makes stuff and asks a lot of questions in Denver, with the help of her two kids, her husband and a growing crowd of friends and neighbors. You can read more about their experiments and adventures at her ever-evolving parenting blog, The Family Lab for Inquiry and Play.

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