Cheese and Microbes, Edited by Catherine W. Donnelly

My latest post for Small Things Considered, an American Society for Microbiology blog, is up with a review of Cheese and Microbes, an interesting collection that may be of interest to general readers with scientific interests (or those who just simply adore cheese!).6a00d8341c5e1453ef01b7c7551c32970b-800wi

“Well-established centuries prior to discovery of the unseen universe of life, cheese production seems perhaps closer to an art than to a science — look no further than that descriptor artisanal… Now an entire book of cheese-related microbiology reviews awaits the curious with the publication by ASM Press of Cheese and Microbes, edited by Catherine Donnelly… Donnelly opens the collection with a brief historical overview of cheese and the microbes involved in its production and Kindstedt follows this with a chapter covering the general processes of cheese making that covers the basic chemistry of milk and the techniques for each common step of its transformation into cheese including coagulation, maintenance of pH, moisture, and salt levels, control of environmental temperature/humidity, physical manipulation, and ripening/maturation. These opening chapters, together with the final ones, form easily readable bookends of with broad appeal and provide excellent resources for someone curious about the food they eat…”

Read my entire review at Small Things Considered!

CONTENTS:

Chapter 1 : From Pasteur to Probiotics: A Historical Overview of Cheese and Microbes
Chapter 2 : The Basics of Cheesemaking
Chapter 3 : Cheese Classification, Characterization, and Categorization: A Global Perspective
Chapter 4 : Mesophilic and Thermophilic Cultures Used in Traditional Cheesemaking
Chapter 5 : The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Tales of Mold-Ripened Cheese
Chapter 6 : The Microbiology of Traditional Hard and Semihard Cooked Mountain Cheeses
Chapter 7 : The Microfloras and Sensory Profiles of Selected Protected Designation of Origin Italian Cheeses
Chapter 8 : Wooden Tools: Reservoirs of Microbial Biodiversity in Traditional Cheesemaking
Chapter 9 : The Microfloras of Traditional Greek Cheeses
Chapter 10 : Biodiversity of the Surface Microbial Consortia from Limburger, Reblochon, Livarot, Tilsit, and Gubbeen Cheeses
Chapter 11 : Microbiological Quality and Safety Issues in Cheesemaking
Chapter 12 : Towards an Ecosystem Approach to Cheese Microbiology

Cooking Allergy Free: Inspired Meals for Everyone, by Jenna Short

Cooking Allergy Free; Inspired Meals for Everyone, by Jenna Short
Publisher: Taunton Press
ISBN: 1627103961
288 pages, Hardcover
Published 21st October 2014
Source: NetGalley

With family and close friends with myriad food allergies I am always on the lookout for new recipes of yummy dishes that spark inspiration and could conceivably made by the average home cook. While many of the dishes in this cookbook appear delicious, however, it isn’t the allergy-free recipe cookbook I expected it to be, and I didn’t find it personally useful. However, this cookbook is excellently designed and could be very useful for the right kind of person/home cook.
The purpose behind Cooking Allergy Free is to provide relatively simple and healthy ‘gourmet’ food that can be adapted to an eater’s particular dietary restrictions among the major 8 food allergens: nuts, wheat (gluten), soy, dairy, eggs, shellfish, fish, and corn. The key word here is ‘can’. The recipes collected by Short here (which cover salads, soups, sides, entrees, deserts, sauces, and baking) are for the most part NOT inherently allergy free. Most of these types of recipes could be found in a regular everyday cookbook without the ‘allergy-free’ theme.
What Short does here, however, is clearly highlight for what diet(s) each recipe is appropriate. This is done at the top of the recipe with consistent, colorful icons, and recipes are indexed at the end of the cookbook according to diet. In addition to allergy restrictions, the dishes are also classified by icon as vegetarian or vegan where appropriate. The design of this book therefore would be exceptionally useful for someone who isn’t remotely familiar with allergens, recipes, or when/how recipes could be altered according to dietary restrictions. As comparison, I could see this book fulfilling a role similar to the “Idiot’s Guide” of technology books.
The highlight of this cook book is really how it looks and the easy navigation/interpretations allowed by the design. You can tell that Short has experience and talent in design. The photographs of the food are high quality and whet the appetite for trying out the dish. These are important considerations for a cook book, but excelling just in these categories doesn’t hold up if the overall purpose or recipes don’t meet your need.
For me the biggest problems come down to that fact that so many of the recipes contain many allergens in them still. It is important to note that a key feature of the book is that variant instructions are offered at the bottom of each recipe (with icons) to highlight how the dish could be altered to make it fit the needs of additional allergy restrictions.
One issue is that not all of these substitutions will work particularly well for the dish in question. For example, not all grains can be substituted well with quinoa to make something gluten-free. Quinoa could be used, but the dish isn’t going to have the same flavors, texture, or basic experience. This issue becomes most prominent in the baking section – where gluten-free flour just simply can’t serve as universal substitute across the board.
The second issue is that so many of the recipes contained allergens for no logical reason. If you are writing a book with ‘allergy-free’ in the title, why would you include recipes with peanuts? Really? One of the worst offending allergens? Why would you garnish something with nuts and then put in the ‘alternate’ instructions ‘Omit the nut garnish’? Why not make the recipe nut-free and then at the bottom say that nuts could be added if you DON’T have a nut allergy. Another recipe mentioned that people with nut allergies often had soy allergies, so the recipe could replace soy with something else – but the recipe also included almonds.
In the end, if you are looking for a book of allergy-free recipes, go find books specific to the dietary restriction(s) in question. If you could use a lovely designed book of recipes with mostly well laid-out guidelines on how to adapt them to a particular diner’s requirements while keeping the food still taste decently acceptable, then this is worth looking into.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.