A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones was a random pick for me. The cover looked clean and bright, I loved the lowercase title, and I needed a new cookbook, so it seemed like an easy choice.
Once it arrived, I'll be honest: I looked through a few pages, felt underwhelmed, and put it upstairs with all our other books. It sat like this for a month, but when I wanted a simple, wholesome breakfast to serve my sister-in-law who was visiting from out of town, I grabbed A Modern Way to Cook and curled up on the couch, ready to re-commit.
I flipped to the "Super-Fast Breakfasts" section, and was immediately pulled in. The overnight oats were an easy choice for serving the next morning, and the concept behind that two-page spread is what kept me reading for the next three hours. A Modern Way to Cook has several spreads within each major section that give multiple ideas for a single category of food. For example, instead of offering a single, overnight oats recipe, Jones writes a "master recipe," if you will, and then has a table of various mix-ins, toppings, or bases that then provide you several options for within the same structure. This translates well for eating seasonally, as well as allowing the reader/cook a creative outlet for experimentation and substitution.
Another asset of this cookbook is the non-committal nature of it. Want to spend 20 minutes in the kitchen? Great. Jones has an entire index of recipes to choose from. Feeling adventurous or unhurried? She has a section titled "Investment Cooking" that might require a few extra ingredients or a more complex technique. In doing this, Jones has produced a book that invites novice cooks to challenge themselves without feeling intimidated, and experienced cooks to simplify without sacrificing quality, taste, or eloquence.
I would classify myself as an intermediate home-cook, and aside from the overnight oats, I made the "Black-eyed peas with chard and green herb smash" (pg. 86 under the "Ready in Twenty" section) as well as the "Celery root, bay leaf, and mushroom ragu" (pg.178 in "Forty Minute Feasts). The green herb smash was the perfect bright and sharp addition to the warmth of the spiced tomatoes and beans, and I've wanted to add it on top of everything...fried eggs, toast, pasta..you name it. I am a sucker for herbs. The celery root ragu was, unfortunately, not my favorite. I think that's more reflective of my pallet than of Jones' recipe, but I did not love it.
Overall, I appreciate Jones' effortless yet intentional approach to cooking. Her recipe-writing is hands-down the most efficient, logical, and streamlined of any cooks I have read. I also appreciate her notes in the introduction about finding a way of eating and cooking that work best for YOU. In light of fads, trends, lifestyle diets, and so forth, Jones challenges the cook to "stop looking at food in its respective parts...and get back to the whole picture, the whole food" (pg. 15). Her line "You can worry about matcha and chia seeds later" in an earlier paragraph was met with a smile by me and a sense of freedom; her recipes are an invitation, not a prescription.
For me, this book serves as more a resource and reference than a back-pocket guide, and on those days when I simply need ideas or inspiration, I know A Modern Way to Cook will not disappoint.
*Disclaimer: This was a complimentary book given to me by the Blogging for Books program, and in exchange I offered this review. All thoughts, opinions, and words are my own.