June’s Bibliobites title was The Summer Shack Cookbook by Jasper White. Reviews were decidedly mixed! People mentioned that they liked some of the recipes they tried, but not enough to make them again. Some participants also said they already had recipes they loved for some of the classic fish dishes in the book (for example, baked scrod or fried fish). One person took the trouble to make the dried-cod fishcakes—a time consuming recipe that she felt wasn’t ultimately any better than fishcakes made with fresh cod. But a worthwhile attempt with a historically important ingredient (try reading Mark Kurlansky’s fascinating The Cod’s Tale for more information on the economics of dried cod from the 17th-20th century. This is a children’s title; for a longer treatment of the same subject, by the same author, see Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World). One person mentioned that the book’s sides were excellent, specifically a green bean and blue cheese salad; she also gave a thumbs-up to a basic vinaigrette and a soy-ginger sauce. We thought many of the desserts sounded summery and delicious—cobblers, pies, and the like—though no one had tried them out.
One deficiency noted was the lack of photographs; there were some, but not enough for most people. The recipes themselves were easy enough to follow; in fact some were amazingly simple. White points out, and participants verified from their own experience, that the quality of the fish is the most important factor in the success of a dish. This book seems worth a read for an overview of seafood in general, with many simple, classic New England recipes. But no one in the group was ready to run out and buy a copy. Sorry Jasper!