Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
An expats' review of Tastes Like Home
on 2 June 2011
For some weeks now I've been dithering, unable to decide whether to review "Tastes Like Home" by Cynthia Nelson for my book column in Trinidad Newsday or check out the recipes and write it up for my Wednesday food column in the same newspaper. In fact I've been putting off writing a review because I knew (and know) some Newsday readers are going to disagree with my views on this book.
From which you'll realise that whoever would like my review copy is welcome to it because, in my estimation, it is neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red herring.
The first 90 pages are devoted to a "food memoir" of, among other things, the author's reminiscences of home (Guyana), salt fish -- which gives me the shudders, lyrical descriptions of okra, eggplant (melongene for local readers), plantains, conkies, bakes and, finally (but not least) An Acquired Taste, Karaili -- that, having tasted some more than once, I have no desire to acquire.
Notwithstanding my views on this book the young ladies in local bookstores have told me it was "flying off the shelves". Well, as an elegant coffee table book I can understand why one would buy it. But as a cookbook, I wouldn't give you the proverbial tuppence for it because whoever heard of a cookbook that lists the ingredients on one page and the methods, directions for cooking overleaf? Especially with a book as large and heavy as this one?
Then, while my native home is the land of Steak and Kidney Pie, Roast Beef and Yorkshire puddings, kippers, real Cheddar, Wensleydale and other good cheeses and Brussel sprouts (have you ever tried roasting them?) Victoria sponge cakes and English Trifles, I've lived in the Caribbean for over 50 years -- long enough to appreciate the Jamaican Watchman (rice and peas -- that are really red kidney beans), Callalloo, Pelau, and that oh, so fattening, heart-threatening but delicious Oil Down, the classic Flying Fish of Barbados, Doubles...
However, I searched through "Tastes Like Home" in vain for recipes for my favourite Caribbean dishes; presumably Cynthia Nelson thought those Caribbean specialities were so well known as not to need inclusion in her book.
Did I check out any of the recipes in this book? I did try one and wasn't impressed with the result; as for more of the rest either they were too peppery for my taste or of the ones that interested me I reckoned them to be a threat to my waistline and/or arteries.
But there you are, you may find this book a treasure house of old-time favourites and don't mind turning over pages while you cook. I hope those of you who bought, or have yet to buy "Tastes Like Home" by Cynthia Nelson find it more useful than I did.