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Cottage Life’s Summer Weekend Cookbook

by Jane Rodmell

In a cookbook designed for use at the cottage – where correct culinary method usually takes a backseat to more practical matters such as finding a can opener or a sharp knife – it is capricious to include two pages on hot peppers yet scarcely a word on the need for proper kitchen equipment. If the Summer Weekend Cookbook, by Cottage Life magazine columnist Jane Rodmell, weren’t so otherwise useful and enjoyable, one would be tempted to doubt its quality for this very reason.

But doubt not. This is a very informative, straightforward cookbook. It is extremely well laid out (recipes appear one per page, allowing ingredients to be listed conveniently to the side of the method rather than above), and it sacrifices neither creativity nor freshness of ingredients in delivering a surprisingly large range of delicious and simple recipes. And simplicity is the key here. Rodmell correctly identifies the main challenge for most cottage cooks: getting out of the kitchen quickly, while still serving tasty food. To this end she includes helpful sections on stocking the weekend pantry and entertaining crowds that feature a wealth of time-saving hints and cooking tips. She also devotes a quarter of the recipes to the barbecue and, unlike Martha Stewart, Rodmell does not require her readers to possess a lathe and a pilot’s license to make potato salad.

Those without cottages may find the idea of a cottage cookbook itself capricious. But such skeptics should reconsider: Rodmell’s raspberry spinach salad, herb-crusted lamb spare ribs, spicy black bean soup, french toast with fresh peaches, or grilled bananas with rum (to name just a few) will all taste just as good when prepared, with relative ease, in a well-equipped city kitchen. And there’s even something to be learned about hot peppers.