Rory and I have been in New York City for the past 7 days, and are flying back to California this morning. At a cooking class that I taught on Wednesday night at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), a student came up to me and revealed that she’d originally bought a cookbook called Quick & Easy Vietnamese: Home Cooking for Everyone (Japan Trade Press, 2003), thinking that the author, Andre Nguyen, was me.
“I just wasn’t thinking,” she revealed. “I thought that Quick and Easy was an abbreviated version of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. When I received the book from Amazon, I realized that it wasn’t you.”
Yes, for the record, I am NOT Andre Nguyen. I have his book, a small work that he coauthored with Yukiko Moriyama. Please note that Andre’s book is not the same as my friend Nancie McDermott’s Quick & Easy Vietnamese: 75 Everyday Recipes (Chronicle Press, 2005) – actually a good book to get for your collection. (I suppose the rampant use of the ampersand (&) in the title is part of the Quick and Easy mode as you have to type fewer keys in the title. I actually have problems finding the ampersand on my keyboard.)
Quick & Easy Cookbooks
In the main, 'quick & easy' cookbooks are for people looking for a beeline to making food at home. However, if you parse the recipes out, the prep time is not really quick unless you do a Rachel Ray thing and use pre-shredded cheese or some other processed product that you have to hunt down. I often feel that quick & easy is not that quick nor easy. Rather, it's a phrasing that frames a topic well for readers. For example, the "10-day lose-20-pounds Diet" book. You get the idea. Such titles attract readers and I understand the strategy.
Culture, history, and the foundation of the Vietnamese food traditions and techniques are not what quick & easy readers are interested in. I present plenty of authentic, traditional Vietnamese recipes that require a handful of ingredients, but my style of writing and instruction is not ‘quick & easy.’ There are also stories and teaching points behind every recipe that I develop for the cooking public. I want people to understand what they’re doing so that they will get into the Vietnamese kitchen. For all these reasons, I could never be mistaken for Andre Nguyen. I am not quick & easy.
The woman who mistakenly bought Andre’s book found her way to the ICE cooking class and had a ball. She said that she learned so much and was glad to have tracked me down. I was glad that she had found me too. Case of mistaken identity solved.