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Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America
Cookoff Recipe Fever in America
Author: Amy Sutherland
Competitive cooking isn’t limited to Iron Chef. Across America, amateur chefs cross spatulas at more than a thousand competitions covering numerous states and a pantry full of ingredients. Following a small group of contestants for a year on the contest circuit, journalist Amy Sutherland introduces us to well-known cookoff lumina...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780142004746
ISBN-10: 014200474X
Publication Date: 5/25/2004
Pages: 352
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.

3.8 stars, based on 9 ratings
Publisher: Penguin Books
Book Type: Paperback
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reviewed Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Plain and simple, Americans love competetion and Americans love food. Competetive cooking is a natural.

I'm actually not a Food Network watcher, but I may start. This book was fascinating. If you thought that cook-offs are for homemakers at the state fair, you are wrong. There are cooking competitions for the every-day home cook that have prizes worth thousand of dollars. Women who have high-profile, stressful jobs and Type A pesonalities turn to "contesting" as a semi-professional hobby and have kitchens filled with millions of dollars worth of prizes to show for their efforts.

The book is also a discussion of America's love of convenience foods. The author points out that we will spend hours upon hours commuting or watching television without batting an eye, but when Americans cook the food has to be ready in 30 minutes or less. These competitions, particularly the Pilsbury Bake Off, also rely on processed foods, and even the "light" entries are often not that healthy for you.

The contesters who enter dozens of competitions every year are constantly thinking of the mass appeal of a dish, assuming that's what the judges look for in a winning dish. Many believe spinach doesn't have family appeal, for instance. One entrant had to change the name of her dish from Morroccan Chicken to Couscous and Chicken because the judges didn't want a winning dish to sound so "ethnic." In a way, rather than broadening the minds of Americans, foodwise, these competitions dumb down food to the lowest common denominator.

But there's no coverup involved here. Everyone knows the point of these competitions is to sell more product. These competions are a cheap way for Pilsbury or the National Beef Council, or whichever corporation is sponsoring the event, to create recipe libraries without the upkeep of test kitchens. The kitchens of America are the test kitchens. And thousands of recipes are tested and mailed in every year.

I'm now considering Googling "cooking contests" and submitting a recipe or two. I can't eat any of the winning recipes that are published in the book. It would be nice to have a little gluten-free representation out there.

This review also published in my food blog:
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reviewed Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America on + 3 more book reviews
This book was a fun read! The author writes well, and it was easy to get caught up in the behind-the-scenes of a food contest. I learned a lot, and now I think I might want to enter a contest myself! You do not have to be a foodie to enjoy this book, but if you are, guaranteed you will LOVE it!