Cookbook Review–Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings

I’ve been on a cookbook tear lately, trying to get some inspiration and get back my cooking mojo. I’ve also been trying to reframe my approach to casual entertaining, as my OCD usually drives me to be Martha Stewart-perfect when I have people over. You know what that means? I don’t have friends over as much as I would like. I want to embrace an attitude that every gathering does not have to be an over-the-top affair I slaved over for a week. This new book caught my eye, and it seemed like just what I was looking for to jumpstart a season of summer entertaining.

This beautifully photographed, highly stylized cookbook showcases how the author’s international travel experiences influenced her cooking. On it’s own, it’s a nice book that I think features very unusual, creative recipes that many people will find inspiring. However, I truly believe that this book is misadvertised and that unless you flip through it before you buy, you may be in for an unfortunate surprise. First, with the exception of eggs, cheese, and yogurt, this book is exclusively vegetarian. You’ll find no fish, beef, pork, or shellfish in these recipes. I double-checked the description on Amazon, and nowhere does it mention this as a feature. Also, as other reviewers noted, this book leans heavily toward sweet recipes, and while she includes some savory options, I still feel like it was unbalanced if we truly want to see this book as a more comprehensive approach to entertaining.

Another drawback to this book is that many of her ingredients must be sourced from specialty stores, or are very specific to a region (and she doesn’t necessarily offer substitutions). For example, I know that I can’t find organic untreated rose petals, ghee, or bee pollen in my neck of north Louisiana. Furthermore, I think that many of her recipes are small batch and labor intensive (i.e. fussy), which limits them to smaller gatherings. As a family of five, our gatherings are never really small by default.

Finally, I really didn’t find a lot of practical tips for simplifying entertaining. Rather than tips for selecting drinks, or setting up a buffet, she focuses more on “styling” with a full page on how to photograph food. I don’t know about you, but when I have guests over, I’m not really concerned with styling my food for photos–I’d rather focus on my guests and setting a tone of heartfelt hospitality. Ultimately, I feel like this book is way more niche than the description would have you believe.

However, for all these issues, this truly is a gorgeous, interesting book! I just think it was not what I expected at all, and the publisher did not give it the best description. I’m not saying don’t buy it at all. I’m saying I’d flip through it first at your local bookstore so you have a better idea if it will meet your expectations.

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*Disclaimer–I was provided this book in exchange for a fair and honest review*

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