I like cookbooks. They are the fusion of my love for cooking and food, and my background in technical writing. I also love fantasy fiction & roleplaying games, with The Elder Scrolls series in particular. So, when I first played Skyrim and found there was cooking in the game, one of my first thoughts was “Man, an Elder Scrolls cookbook would be neat!” So, when one finally came out, I knew that I needed to check it out. Much as with the second Von Bek novel, I should have been looking at the Monkey’s Paw.
Let’s start off by focusing on the positive – there are some things this cookbook does very right. The book has several spice blends that look interesting. Additionally, each recipie includes a difficulty ranking from 1-10, presented with a Skyrim/ESO-style skill bar. This, in particular, feels like an innovation that more cookbooks could use, on top of the usual prep time, cook time, and total time information.
All of that said, the book has some problems with recipe presentation. For example, the multiple bread recipes in the book do list the rise time with the prep and cook time. However, they don’t indicate in the recipe where to have the bread rise, and then if there’s one rise or two. Now, if you have experience making bread, that’s not necessarily an issue – as you may be able to intuit where to let the bread rise. However, if you are inexperienced, that’s a problem – and it’s especially an issue when dealing with a cookbook where the target market is “People who like the Elder Scrolls games and want to cook more, but don’t due to lack of experience.”
However, that leads to the other problem – a lot of the recipes here are slight modifications and re-skins of some fairly common or classic recipes – stuff like rice pilaf, or shepherd’s pie with goat instead of lamb, mutton, or hamburger.
All of this is especially an issue when it gets to the brewing suggestions – there are a variety of recipes here for brewing your own mead. Again, this is neat – I could see more than a few people who maybe have some experience making beer wanting to branch out to mead based on playing Skyrim – or electing to start brewing based on Skyrim, and maybe starting with mead. However, if you’ve never made mead before, if anything in these recipes is omitted that is a big deal (equivalent to the number of rises for bread, for example), you, like I, would not know if that’s missing.
All of that makes for a real deal-breaker that keeps me from recommending this book for purchase.
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