Author: Donna Hay
Photography: Con Poulos
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Date Published: 2002
“Commonsense cooking redefined with modern ingredients, outlook and style”
Donna Hay has almost become a household name (in Australia at least). She has authored many cookbooks, contributed to Marie Claire and even has her own self titled cooking magazine. In ‘Modern Classics’ Donna attempts to produce a body of traditional recipes, incorporating modern favorites (usually thai or indian dishes), under the ‘commonsense cooking’ ideal.
This book was first purchased for my Dad as a Father’s day present. Unfortunately he hasn’t used it yet (this is not a reflection on the contents or quality, my Dad just doesn’t like following written recipes).
The sections are preceded by a short introduction and are as follows:
- roasts + simmers
- pasta, noodles + rice
- pies + tarts
Between each section are ‘short orders’ which consists of smaller recipes, sides, sauces and other cooking miscellany.
The recipes themselves are high quality with a focus on healthy eating (particularly the large amout of vegetable based recipes). The writing is direct, easy to understand and the ingredients are listed clearly. The basics are included, such as instructions on how to make gravy, stocks, mashed potato and rice. One minor drawback is that the recipes are on a different page to the pictures – this choice was probably based on layout style, but can be annoying when the reader has to ‘match up’ titles and images.
The photography is beautiful and crisp. Unfortunately, this only contributes to the problems. There is always a strategically placed dribble of pie on otherwise spotless minimalistic cutlery (see the cover above) or a feng shui positioned perfectly grilled piece of bread (bruschetta in this case). ‘Donna Hay cook books’ should probably have there own post on Stuff White People Like. The entire book is so stylised and ‘ultra authentic’ that it eventually comes across as false and annoying. Even the font featured in the section intros strikes me as being chosen to come across ‘mega real’ (like a computerised version of scribbly handwriting).
You can tell that a ‘food stylist’ (whatever that is) has written and designed this book, rather than a real chef. Everything feels recycled and as if they are standing on the shoulders of far better cooks to achieve this book.
If you don’t have a classic recipe cookbook this may be worth purchasing. The book fulfills the title of bringing classics into a modern setting and including staple dishes from non-western cultures (older classic cookbooks may not have included these as most people have only been exposed to different cuisines in the past two decades). However, there are surely better examples of classic recipe cookbooks that give far more info and also without trying too hard design wise.
♥♥ – 2/5