A review of "Meat and Potatoes" by Rahm Fama

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Meat and Potatoes: Simple Recipes that Sizzle and Sear, promises to deliver “52 irresistible, simple meals,” along with knowledge (about meat and cast-iron cookery) “to help you upgrade your dishes.”

Each meal plan offers a meat (of course) main dish with 2 complimentary sides–one starch and one veggie. For example:

  • Pastrami Flank Steak, Potato Pancakes and Gingered Red Cabbage Slaw;
  • Pistachio-Crusted Pork Chop Milanese, Roast Fingerling Potatoes, Warm Arugula Salad;
  • Asian Chicken Wings, Sesame Soba Noodles, Carrot-Apricot Slaw;
  • Pan-Seared Lamb Loin, Horseradish potato Gratin, Spaghetti Squash with Basil and Almonds;
  • Elk Loin with Port Thyme Butter; Jalapeño and Dried Cherry Spoon Bread, Honey-glazed Turnips.

The meals, especially the side dishes, are appetizing and sometimes even irresistible, but unfortunately
This book is built entirely on a gimmick, “a trick or device intended to attract attention rather than fulfill a useful purpose” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary).
The Rustic Cast Iron Skillet is hyped as the most important piece of kitchen equipment, setting readers up to believe that all they need is that one chuck wagon essential to turn out 52 different meaty, gourmet meals.
Yes, a cast iron skillet is a great (and inexpensive) kitchen tool, but here’s what every real chef knows about cast iron–

  • Don’t dump cups of liquid (broth, milk, wine, beer, juice) into your hot rustic skillet and cook it, unless you want to ruin the seasoning.
  • Don’t add acidic ingredients (tomatoes, tomato juice, citrus) or alcohol to cast iron, unless you don’t mind an icky-metallic taste to your food.
  • When braising (cooking with liquids), stewing or simmering, or when using acidic ingredients use enameled cast iron or aluminum clad steel.

But Fama fails to mention these annoying details (because they’d ruin the gimmick, wouldn’t they?) He describes how to season cast iron (a thin coat of oil, baked on), and why seasoning is important (creates a non-stick finish); then he gives more than a dozen recipes which will promptly ruin your seasoning efforts and he boldly tells you to be sure to use your skillet for recipes that will turn metallic when cooked in cast iron.

Who will like Meat and Potatoes?

  1. People who blindly and naively adore television chefs because hey, they’re, like ON TELEVISION, dude, which means they’re FAMOUS!;
  2. People who buy cookbooks so they can imagine themselves cooking beautiful, yummy meals, but who never actually cook any of those recipes (because virtual reality is satisfying enough);
  3. Experienced cooks who read cookbooks for inspiration, culling whatever is useful, ignoring bad advice, and supplementing shallow, insufficient instruction with their many years of knowledge and experience (there are some really good recipes, if you know which is the right pan to use).

Who won’t like Meat and Potatoes:

  1. Vegetarians, no doubt;
  2. Anyone hoping to gain in-depth schooling in the selection and preparation of meat (this book delves no deeper into meat than the beginner-basic rudiments);
  3. Die-hard “meat-and-potatoes” people like my brother, who insists sweet potatoes are NOT potatoes, who would never, ever put a mouthful of maple collard greens to his lips, despite the fact that they’re loaded with bacon.

Are you a meat-and-potatoes lover? And how do you feel about the prevailing notion that it’s impossible to market anything without a gimmick? 
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

22 thoughts on “A review of "Meat and Potatoes" by Rahm Fama”

  1. I have to say Tracy that the above recipes really do sound tasty but I used to cook with cast iron when first married, some 30 years ago and I can testify to all you say here. And even with all the seasoning and treating with oil it still went rusty and had to be chucked out. I’ve not cooked with it since. I would love to know how successful this book has been – or not. As in, did the gimmick work?

    1. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about the success of this book.
      About chucking out old cast iron — we’ve rescued and regenerated them. But, old cast iron pans are like puppies; it takes someone who loves them, to keep them alive.

      1. Yes, I loved mine at first and they lasted quite a while but then when we moved to the States I decided they were too beyond the pale, not to mention heavy, to take with me and so I chucked them out then. They certainly do need a lot of care…like puppies, ha! Except puppies are so much cuter… 😉

  2. Yes, I had a cast iron skillet at one time too. Became a rust iron skillet in no time so went to the tip. Much better with Teflon (non-stick).
    Have heavy based saucepans which are around 20 years old and still going strong – they cost a wee fortune when I bought them but have gone the distance. No gimmicks.
    Fry pans are more difficult to find – we’ve had around 4 or 5 – but not too heavy lest they slip and make a mess. Would still like a heavy casserole – waiting for the sales …
    Marketing without a gimmick? Not easy but not impossible – everything needs a ‘hook.’

  3. I think I’m married to your brother so my meat and potatoes cooking is fairly limited. I have been able to get him to try the occasional unusual veggie but sweet potatoes (or anything orange except carrots) is out of the question.

    1. So why does a so-called expert not know what you and I, ordinary cooks, know…. ?
      That’s what I detest about celebrity cookbooks. They don’t necessarily know everything, but they get to act like they do, because they’re “famous!”

  4. Tracy, I learned from my aunt and her cast iron skillet some tricks of the trade. However, you amaze me with your balanced Yes, This, but No, That…and with terrific explanations. My aunt also told me that her “real, authentic” cast iron skillet kept her blood iron-rich, so of course that’s why she cooked everything from pan cornbread to grilled cheese sandwiches in it.
    So many traditions and interpretations are connected to our cooking!

    1. I didn’t mention it — but you brought it up. I had an iron-deficiency problem for most of my life. No matter how I ate, I just couldn’t get enough iron, (and supplements helped just a wee bit). But once we started regularly cooking in cast iron, I was able to get off the supplements and keep my iron levels in check.
      Yes–there are so many traditions and interpretations connected to our cooking.

  5. Very interesting and perceptive. Reading the comments about increasing blood iron levels through the use of caste iron skillets, made me wonder what we are getting into our blood streams with non-stick coatings, aluminium finishes etc.

  6. Never had a cast iron skillet Tracy. I do love potatoes – I eat meat, but often prefer the veggies, so I don’t think this book would be for me. It is frustrating when the gimmicks get published and so many of the good writers don’t.

  7. These seem like recipes that would be true to my heart, mainly because potatoes have earned themselves a bad name over the years and I LOVE potatoes and would love any book that brings them back again. .

    1. I agree. I grew up with plain boiled potatoes with margarine. Ewyew!
      I’ve begun collecting potato recipes, because I’ve discovered that they’re simply delicious food. (As well as nutritious, if you don’t load them up with butter and sour cream!)

        1. I’m working on a cookbook, with a hefty potato recipe section. I’ll send you a copy, as soon as it’s done (actually, I’ll send you the chapter, even before the book is finished!) 🙂

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