Handling Feedback

simple-jacket

I’m a big fan of cookery books, even though my level of expertise in that area is still rather low (although enthusiastic). There are a lot of things that are wrong with these books (I’m still rather vaguely thinking of writing one myself to correct these errors, if only for my own use). You can easily read about the common complaints (usually too many and/or difficult to find ingredients, loose practical instructions etc) in Amazon reviews (once you’ve excluded the gushing ones).

In one case (book given above), I was quite surprised to find that the author had taken the time to reply to these criticisms, which was quite unusual although delightful. It’s a pity this is not taken on board by more authors, it could be quite enlightening. In fact, whilst checking this post, it turns out that the author, Diana Henry, replies to quite a few comments, quite exceptional!

It’s illuminating comparing and contrasting the two viewpoints, with the answer (at least in my case) being to aim for somewhere in between (so the response of the author has certainly been worthwhile and helpful).

As an example, first a reader’s comment (an extract actually):

When the ingredients of a recipe go well into double figures – that’s not simple. When the ingredients include ‘nduja (that’s an actual ingredient and not a typo), sambal oelek, smoked almonds, black “venus” rice, fregola – that’s not simple. I’m not saying I won’t cook some of these dishes, but they won’t be for midweek meals for my family. And while I may consider around 40% of these recipes to be simple, there are probably less than ten that I would attempt to put on the table midweek.

There are dishes that I will cook, that I want to cook, but this is aspirational rather than inspirational cooking. Make sure you know what you’re buying, so it doesn’t end up another beautiful cookbook on your kitchen shelf that you never open.

and now the thoughtful reply (extracted, that follows the comment referenced above):

Dear Lesley,

I’m the author of Simple and I’m really sorry (especially as I am also the mother with plenty of fish fingers and ketchup on hand) that this book was a disappointment to you. I did write in the intro to the book that I think you need to have some unusual ingredients to make everyday food a bit more exciting…

You cite the sea bream with pomegranate and walnut stuffing. You just mix the ingredients for the fish, fill the cavity and put it in the oven. It’s one of the simplest dishes in the book…

There are no difficult techniques in this book at all – I am not a chef – but there are interesting ideas and combinations of flavours. You are clearly a cook – as you say there’s lots you want to make – but please try some dishes which seem more unusual. I think you’ll be surprised. Often they seem more complicated – because they’re unusual in some way – than they actually are…

Very best wishes,

Diana Henry

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