Monday, February 23, 2009

The Ungarnished Truth, A Cooking Contest Memoir: Book Review

The Ungarnished Truth

I'll admit it, even though I find most of the recipes atrocious, I am fascinated by the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Every two years the contest is held with much fanfare and prizes, including a million dollar grand prize. The judges are generally food editors and choose recipes based on taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal, but because the recipes use packaged "convenience" foods, they often end up sounding bizarre. Samosa Taquitos with Apricot Chutney Sauce, anyone? Or Huevos Rancheros Pizza?

The Ungarnished Truth, A Cooking Contest Memoir "A Woman, A Chicken Dinner, A Million Dollars" is out now in paperback and I devoured the book in two sittings. Bake-off grand prize winner and author Ellie Matthews is smart, funny and very engaging. Her story gives an almost unbelievable level of detail on her road to the win. But even if she never won anything, you would want to read about this quirky and down to earth woman (who shocked everyone by not jumping up and down or screaming when she won).

In some ways Matthews is a most unlikely contestant. With a scientific mind, and a passion for the outdoors, she is not who you'd imagine even entering contests, but enter she does. Perhaps her amazing eye for detail comes from the fact that she is fully expecting not to win. In fact, she tells herself, and her readers that her first appearance in the Bake-Off is just a practice run.

In addition to sharing everything about the contest and her recipe development strategies, Matthews also shares intimate emotional elements and how the contest wove its way into to her life, even helping her reconnect with a very dear friend she met during a dramatic tragic event in the mountains. But enough about it from me, just read the book, it's an absolute pleasure.