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Thoughts about future of Cookbook of the Month

I've recently talked with a couple of people who are or have been regular participants in COTM about the fact that it's not had much participation - nominations, votes on nominated books, or reports - so far this calendar year. We thought it might make sense to open a discussion about the future direction it should take, or if people want to see it continue.

I don't know what the reason(s) for the fall off in participation is. The books selected, people being too busy or fatigued by the concept, or...?

I'm initiating this discussion because I've comitted to coordinating COTM for the next four months, but this is an endeavor that's about members of the community doing something collaborative because they've enjoyed it, so whatever they collectively decide, goes.

One person I spoke with suggested the possibility of a three- or six -month hiatus, if people might feel recharged for the project at that point.

Regardless of what happens to COTM, A) It's been a pretty amazing three-and-a-half-year project so far that has introduced many of us to some terrific cookbooks, and B) We should make sure Chow will keep the COTM Archive Page up so we can continue to easily find and use the threads generated.

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  1. I loosely follow COTM discussions (I rarely vote since I know I probably won't live up to the responsibility of following up - smile) I think there is some fatigue of the concept. Those monthly votes seem to come closer and closer together lately!

    I think a hiatus might be a very good idea. Or perhaps longer between books (though that runs the risk of having people completely tune out for awhile if a book is chosen that they truely aren't interested in)

    1. What's the difference whether 10 or 100 people participate in a COTM discussion? The people who do participate may be fewer but are just as involved. I am out of the country and unable to participate until the fall, but I still read all the posts avidly and makes notes about things I'd like to try based on the wonderful comments that the participants write. Maybe there is some fatigue for some posters, but isn't Chowhound a fairly dynamic site with members entering and leaving all the time? I'm one of the worst offenders when it comes to suggesting new cookbooks, but perhaps choosing more "classic" books for a few months would encourage more posts since it is likely that more people might already have these books, already cook from them, and wouldn't have to purchase them or borrow them from the library. I, for one, still miss the DCOTM, and I would be really sorry to see this one fade away as well.

      3 Replies
      1. re: roxlet

        It might not matter to the participants if there are 10 or 100, and that's great for them, but later if I'm reading a discussion in which only 10 people have participated I have less of a sense of how much trust I can put in the opinions.

        1. re: rustic

          Really? That would assume that many people report on the same recipes, which doesn't seem to be the case usually. And why wouldn't you trust an individual's result anyway? It seems to me that an opinion is an opinion, which you have to make a leap of faith to trust one way or another.

        2. re: roxlet

          Personally, I think the difference is that it's a lot of work for the coordinator. Someone steps up to volunteer because they enjoy it and think they are doing a good thing for the community, only to discover that people aren't very engaged. And once you step up, you're locked in for six months.

          I've never been a coordinator, but I would be bummed out if I spent my precious time and energy coordinating COTM and got the kind of participation we've had lately. We all only have so many hours in a day.

          ~TDQ

        3. I do not participate (because of a 4 and 6 year old) but read and enjoy the threads all the time and buy some of the books. Just wanted you to know that there may be more like me.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Siobhan

            I just started participating this month. The book I nominated for April was chosen! I'm having lots of fun w it. Hope it stays.

            1. re: Siobhan

              I'm the same.....lurking in the background. Interested but not committed. Definitely enjoy reading the posts though.

              1. re: Siobhan

                count me in here as well. I don't formally participate but read the postings and sometimes cook from the books but not in the way I would like to. Kind of a challenge for me these days but I just wanted to let everyone know who participates/organizes/posts that their effort is appreciated and read with interest!
                :-)

              2. I probably shouldn't comment because I never really participate in the COTM ~~ I do read it at times however ~~ It does seems that by the time a book is nominated, and voted on hardly two weeks goes by and it's time to start the process all over again not leaving much time for participants to "get into" the current book...With Spring here, and summer not far away, when folks will be busy...kids out of school, vacations, gardens, etc,. etc. etc. I suggest you cut back to every other month..This will allow for more time for everyone to get involved in the current book...This fall, when outside activities slow down, and if the interest is there you can go back to the monthly COTM.......HTH

                Luck!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  I'm with Uncle Bob in that it may be better to do each book for two months - even in the fall, because even though things may "slow down" there are lots of holidays, soccer games, putting up the harvest, etc. to keep many busy.

                  It's very hard to tell how many people are actually participating if they don't post about what they made and their results. (Hint, hint Shaebones and the many others that did vote for it.)

                  One thing that may keep people from posting in general are all those who deride cooks for critisizing a recipe when they have made so many changes. And, more specifically, with the current COTM (Bittman) so many things are so basic that it doesn't really feel like "his" recipe but "everyman's" recipes. But there is still room for evaluation. Are the directions clear? How are quantities specified?

                  1. re: clamscasino

                    "even in the fall, because even though things may "slow down" there are lots of holidays, soccer games, putting up the harvest, etc. to keep many busy".

                    Good points!!

                    1. re: clamscasino

                      Ok, I got the hint. I made the Cotriade on page 71 that was mentioned earlier. I found it extremely bland. After dousing w s and p it turned out ok...but don't think I'll make it again.

                  2. I stopped participating the month that Ottolenghi was chosen. I couldn't get the book and live in a split level where the computer isn't on the same level as the kitchen. The idea of spending time perusing recipes, then printing them out to cook from had very little appeal to me. I think I made one recipe that month, and am not sure if I even posted about it?

                    I know that month generated some controversy, but I feel strongly that the cookbook chosen should be available to the majority of hounds. I also feel that it should be available to those who get them from the library and may not have a computer at home. (Though probably the majority of us do on that last count.) I just want COTM to be as inclusive of people in all kinds of financial situations as possible.

                    It may be silly of me, but I just fell out of the habit of looking at the threads that month. This, despite having enjoyed it for a good while prior. I guess I was that turned off. I know that exclusivity wasn't an intended consequence of the nominators, but I'm being honest. I'd like to promise to participate more in the future. But, honestly, I haven't liked Bittman's book, which is this month's COTM. I probably won't cook from it--his recipes are too simple on flavors for me.

                    So, I guess I can promise this: I will make a point of looking at COTM threads in the future, and will participate when moved. I would hate to see it die, though going into summer, would fully expect it to hibernate a bit, at least in the northern hemisphere.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: amyzan

                      But Ottolenghi was one of the most successful months in terms of participation and discussion. :-)

                      My view is that people participate when they are truly inspired by the book - for example, Ottolenghi, the Vietnamese cookbooks and Fuchsia Dunlop. Maybe there just aren't that many cookbooks like that out there?

                      Personally, I haven't participated that much recently due to a holiday, the fact that I'm not interested in buying the Bittman (and most of the time that's the only way I can participate, being in the UK) and because I found Mexican challenging due to a lack of experience with the cuisine and difficulty in sourcing ingredients. I certainly still read a lot of the posts though, and have been encouraged to try my hand at the Kennedy as a result.

                      I'm torn about the two month thing. On the one hand, I think it's a good idea. On the other, I don't like the thought of two months of a book I don't have and can't get hold of. I do also find it frustrating when people vote for a book, and then don't participate (not a dig, I'm probably guilty of that myself!).

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Ottolenghi had a lot of passionate endorsements, and I recognize I was in the minority. It's not unlike me to go against the mainstream. I also have food allergies, so find that I can't always make a recipe as written, which apparently irks the heck out of some fellow hounds! I'm just recounting my personal experience. It was Ottolenghi that turned me.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I LOVE COTM. It has brought me so much joy, given me so much more knowledge of other cuisines and just plain good cooking ability. Sure, not every book appeals to me, and if it doesn't, I either skip it, or try maybe one or two recipes if I can get it from the library. Not every book can appeal to every person.

                          For me the past couple of months were tough for cooking. Like some of the others posting here, I have a young child (turning 4 next week), and between sick days and snow days, I spent a lot less time in the kitchen. And then of course there is travel - we went away twice in March. But even though Bittman wasn't my book of choice, I happen to have it, and I have dug in and tried a few things.

                          I also love looking at old threads. Helps me find something new to try in a book I may have just gotten, or intrigues me into buying another book (maybe that part I don't need so much!). It also helps me remember old favorites that I might have forgotten.

                          If saving COTM means having to go to it lasting 2 months, then ok. But I'm happy with it the way it is. I agree with the previous poster who said that it isn't the number of people participating that makes it worthwhile. I think there is real passion for it among some of us.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I read the old threads all the time once I have a chance to use the book also.

                        2. re: amyzan

                          amyzan:

                          Amyzan: you bring up some good points, especially the one about choosing a book that's available for everyone. Although I pushed for Ottolenghi to be COTM and find that the book is among my all-time faves, I agree that one of the criteria used should be how available a book is. Most of us don't have (or don't wish) to spend big bucks on fancy books, especially before we've tried them. In its defense, Ottolenghi had a huge number of recipes online.

                          However, I think we should make it a rule that the COTM must be available from a library or have many recipes online. I also think that online recipes should be included as part of each COTM even if those recipes are NOT in the book.

                          I do love Bittman, but many of his recipes are for basic dishes. There's not a lot of excitement in How to Cook Everything. I don't agree with shaebones about the cotriade. I loved the potatoes, fish and bacon and it's one of my regular standbys, but chaque un a son gout, eh?

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            Yeah, I respect Bittman for making cooking simpler for noncooks and beginners. He's just not for me, as you say.

                          2. re: amyzan

                            I love COTM but my participation also dwindled when Ottolenghi was chosen. After that, it seemed to me, that many of the books chosen or suggested, were books that were difficult for many hounds to access - either libraries didn't have them, or the waiting lists were too long or that they were books that weren't offered in the states. The Rose Bakery cookbook is another example that jumps to mind. Because of this, it seemed to me that COTM became a bit more elitist since the books weren't available to the majority of hounds.

                            While it may have appeared that Ottolenghi had many active threads, the question is, were there as many diverse posters for Ottolenghi as there was for the Vietnamese books or the Dunlop books? My impression, and it's only my impression because I am way too lazy to go back and count, is that the people who posted, posted a lot because they love the book, but there weren't as many HC hounds who did.

                            When COTM started, everyone made a point of suggesting books that were easily accessible to the majority of hounds. Moreover, we had huge success with the books that were first suggested because it was a new project and they were amazing cookbooks (Hazan, ABB, Zuni, Lucques). And because everyone was so enthusiastic over the books, the threads definitely took on a life of their own. It's awesome to see old COTM threads pop up, even after 3 years.

                            There have always been ebbs and flows with COTM. Part of it is scheduling, part of it is availability of ingredients and part of it just may be because if there is a "dud" month (Vegetable Harvest), it's harder to become enthused after some lackluster meals.

                            COTM has changed my cooking life and expanded my cooking skills. And, more importantly, it's opened my cooking world and expanded it into other people's kitchens, techniques and ingredients.

                            I don't know what the answer is, but I would miss COTM if it were gone.

                            1. re: beetlebug

                              One last comment, I'm also in a place where I just don't feel like posting. I have a number of posts from the Prudhomme book as well some revists from other cookbooks. I do have to post on Prudhomme because I'm holding the library book until I do. Motivation to post has been l-o-w.

                              1. re: beetlebug

                                The problem with Rose Bakery is that, after a long time--maybe a year-- of the book being hard to get (even through Amazon) and being off the table for discussion, is that there was a sudden last minute surge of support for it on the last day of nominations based on some improved availability on Amazon. There was little or no discussion about it because it came up at the last minute: there was just a flurry of "me too's" in the nominations.

                                There was no other book that month that people seemed that excited about, so it won the voting, too.

                                But virtually no one stepped in until after the book had won the voting to say they didn't have access to it.

                                It was really a freak last minute, bizarre thing that it won, and people just didn't have enough time to speak up during nominations and say that their libraries didn't have it.

                                ~TDQ

                            2. Caitlin, as a fellow reader of the COTM, I'd love to see the concept broadened. The CHOW mag side of this site has gone thru a few interesting, visual, commentary changes and I'd love to see the essence of community supported COTM include photos from the book, maybe an author Q&A, video tips for a few of the recipes considered as expansion concepts. CHOW mag would hear and see more homecooks checking out the mag side and the CH readers and recipe participants would receive several bonus features the magazine, video and commentary sections can offer.

                              Video enhanced/photo enhanced recipes offer the home cook a wonderful opportunity to learn and experiment.

                              Just 2 cents from the gallery :)

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: HillJ

                                I think this is a cool idea, to leverage Chow's editorial capabilities in service of COTM, but those kinds of author interviews and videos etc. take a long time to set up and execute. We only have about six weeks between the time the book is chosen and by the time we're done with a book. It doesn't give chow very long to do their thing. Even if we did COTM every other month, that's not very much time for chow to contact a big name author, get something coordinated and run with it, in time for it to be useful to COTM participants.

                                Also, in the months when chow invited the authors to the discussion, I'm specifically thinking of "Southern" month, I personally felt like it was too hard to be candidly negative about one of the books. It was hard enough to be candidly negative when the book had so many supporters in the first place, but when the author was actively participating in the thread, too, forget it. If we can't be candid with our opinions on Chowhound, then there's really no point.

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  TDQ, thank you for responding to my "out of the box" suggestion. I was examining the very issue you raised, the work involved in setting up & maintaining COTM. CHOW's editorial staff has the day to day tools & techniques at their disposal and would work w/the current COTM community. Enhancing the visual with added value (similar to topics the CHOW mag already covers) would (in my mind) sharpen the value of cooking together & include/benefit the CHOW magazine audience. Discussion, pro & con to a c.book or specific recipe could continue on CH-COTM but the instructional, visual tools on CHOW. I know its a departure from what has been enjoyed so far (& I have enjoyed it) BUT-I believe the "work" involved could be shared site wide to greater benefit.

                                  The frequency of COTM and how many CH's tackle the leadership can be flexible depending on the c. book selected, time of year, interest to participants. Whatever new dimension COTM takes, I'll be following along.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    I appreciate out of the box thinking, but you miss my most important, second point: I still fear that people will be reluctant to be as candid about sharing their honest feedback about the book and recipes if they know the author is looking on.

                                    In fact, I'll come right out and say it: I think people will be disinclined to share their negative feedback about a cookbook or recipe if they know the author is looking on.

                                    In my opinion, critical feedback is as useful and important as positive feedback. In fact, more important. If the book is lousy, I want to know, so I don't buy it. If the book is great, with a small handful of lousy recipes, I want to know exactly which ones those are and why, so I can avoid them. I don't want it to be all sunshine and roses and let's tiptoe around the author's feelings. Unfortunately, that sunshine-blowing kind of behavior is what I've observed on the several occasions that Chow has had authors participate in discussions on the Home Cooking Board.

                                    Without singling out any particular authors (as there have been more than one that I feel this way about), my observation is that people (including me) tend to get a little star struck when they know the authors are reading along. We get a whole lot of "oh, I just love your book/column/blog" kinds of posts that I don't find helpful or interesting from a 'hounding perspective. And we get a whole lot of the authors posting links from their blogs to Chowhound talking about what a great honor it is their book has been "chosen" as cookbook of the month, not realizing that it's not some academy award for favorite cookbook, that it's just a book we've all decided to explore together and the jury is still out. None, or very few, of them, seem to get it.

                                    Also, I've noticed that the authors that Chow has been able to talk into participating on Home Cooking seem to be authors who are in the midst of book tours. They don't seem, in my experience, to have much time to consider 'hounds questions at the in depth level at which we operate as a community. I've found the authors' posts, as a whole, to be very superficial, self-serving, and disappointing.

                                    I think Chowhound works best when it's the community working together and communicating without the input from self-interested professionals. And I think that holds true just as much for the Home Cooking Board as it does for the regional Boards. I think I would be reluctant to post about a bad experience at a restaurant if I thought the chef was reading along in the thread, and might even post in it because Chow had enlisted him to do some sort of multi-media thing for the site.

                                    ~TDQ

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        And I appreciate the straight forward feedback regarding this TDQ & LulusMom. However, I truly believe there are authors who would enjoy more candid and mature discussion with passionate homecooks and I believe that some authors who have appeared on CH expected much more from CH members. Q&A could be drafted to keep the discussion both lively and focused. It's still a two-way discussion. Who better to ask than the author some specific questions and who better than users to respond and inform. So my attitude about candor is this: no one truly likes kiss ass approaches from a mature, sincere opportunity to learn. No one needs to temper a true dislike or dumb down a question to "tip toe" around the real passion to learn or explore a recipe. The expectation should be mutual and can be stated from the start. I still believe COTM attracts a high caliber of curious cooks who would be engaging and not afraid to speak their mind or ask direct questions. Authors meet all kinds of people through their work. I see no issue to avoid the interesting opportunity of enhancing the cookbook experience with the author of that work.

                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        so well said as always, TDQ. i completely agree.

                                2. I have to admit I read a lot more than I participate - and like others I decided it's better not to vote if I can't commit.

                                  I have three kids ages 4-8 and while I'd love to spend a lot of time getting in to say Essential Cuisines of Mexico - being I'm in Canada I don't have the same kind of experience with Mexican cuisine as others so just reading the book was an exercise... and sourcing ingredients meant a trip to specialty stores. I think I could have gotten further (and I intend to on my own time) had there been two months to do the book.

                                  That's my $0.02 anyway,
                                  m

                                  1. I read the Home Cooking board daily and am a frequent poster, but the COTM concept hasn't appealed to me. Like the apparently DOA idea of the collaborative CHOW recipe (remember the tamales and the coleslaw?), I don't see a lot of point in comparing dishes for which the cook has made a bunch of substitutions without having first maade it as written.

                                    Perhaps rather than expanding to 2 months, doing 4 a year, according to season? My personal preference would be a cookbook that's devoted to one ingredient. There are lots of them, usually smaller, affordable paperbacks. I have one on bacon, one on garlic, and another on maple syrup, for example. It's fun to go through one of these and find one or two recipes to add to your stand-by repertoire. My experience aligns with what Meryl Streep and Nora Ephron said about cookbooks when interviewed about Julie & Julia on Charlie Rose, which was that when people say a particular cookbook is one of their favorites, what they really mean is merely that they have made and liked 2 or 3 things from it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      I'm quite intrigued by your "ingredient of the month" and/or "cookbook of the season" ideas. Both appeal to me.

                                    2. I'd be more likely to participate if the time were longer, but I do read them after the fact for recipe reviews. A month just isn't long enough, for me anyway, to really explore and cookbook and have much useful to say. And frankly, I really wonder if there are 12 cookbooks a year that are really worth the time and attention--I'd really prefer to stick with the real gems. What about 4 books per year, linked to the seasons? Or 6 per year, Like Winter, Spring, Summer, Outdoor Cooking, Fall and Holiday? Or linked to subject matter, like Ethic Foods (however that's defined), Traditional American, Gourmet, Baking/Dessert, Vegetarian, and a wild-card subject? I don't know, but it seems like there should be some way to keep the COTM idea alive.

                                      1. I love COTM and haven't participated much recently, but have been reading along. My month to month participation dropped due to personal reasons (pregnancy, busy schedule), and Uncle Bob is right, those voting threads seems to get closer and closer together, by the time I get around to picking up the current selection from the library, its the 10th, and by the time I get around to trying a few recipes, it's the last week of the month!

                                        I find the past COTM threads a wonderful resource though, especially for the "classic" books like Hazan, Dunlop, and Greenspan. 90% of the cookbooks I've bought in the past 2 years have been reviewed by COTM, because I know I'm not just blindly trying recipes that look good to me, I can focus in on the most reviewed or most popular on the past COTM boards and see what other cooks that I "know" thought of them. In this age of internet recipes, I could google and find 5000+ results for, say, Puttanesca, and I'd rather start with a recipe by a respected cookbook author that has been tried and enjoyed by another home cook like myself.

                                        So, I suppose my vote would be to extend the timeframe to a 2 month window rather than one, and encourage those who aren't into the current selection to cook from past books, as there are so many great ones to choose from.

                                        1. I've only voted a few times and posted a few times in COTM, it is lots of fun, you can't help but learn and enjoy. Of course there are *many* more readers than participants, and I think a lot of us feel guilty about getting without giving. The coordinators spend hours and hours setting this up online for everyone.
                                          But if it disappeared, I don't think any recipe/cookbook questions would go unanswered. And try-outs of recipes/books would still be commented on by interested fellow cooks.
                                          I don't think anything would be lost.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: blue room

                                            I kind of think I'd be less likely to go out and buy some of the books we've used, or try them from the library. I know that this has stretched me tremendously as a cook. And having people I "know" cook along with me makes it that much more fun.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              Haha, yes! I'd have fewer cookbooks, that's for sure. Masa and tamales are familiar & fun for me because of COTM. Some retro Julia Child desserts too. It's like everything else--you get out of it what you put into it!

                                          2. I have only participated the past couple of months, but I have been really into it, and so excited to work through books with people. I highly value all the posts and when I'm thinking of buying a new cookbook or trying a recipe out of one that has been a COTM, I love revisiting the earlier threads.

                                            I do think that we would benefit from thinking more about season when choosing a book. The Essential Cuisines of Mexico was the first book i really participated with, and it was great but it would have been AMAZING if it was tomato season. I would have made many more recipes. I look forward to revisiting the book during the summer.

                                            1. I love COTM and would hate to see it go away. My participation has varied from month to month depending on my schedule and enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the book chosen.

                                              I do agree that the nominations & voting threads for the next month seem to come too soon after we've started a new month. I understand why we start the nominations discussion so early, to allow time for discussion & voting, and then for locating/buying/reserving the book. So I too like the idea of using the COTM selection for 2 months instead of just one.

                                              Here's a radical suggestion to go along with that: choose 2 books for each 2-month period. I can see several advantages:

                                              1. With 2 books, participants are more likely to find one or the other of the books appealing or more available to them.

                                              2. It would allow us to choose books that might not be chosen if they were the only book, like ones that focus on a single ingredient (like garlic) or type of cooking (salads, desserts, bread, etc.).

                                              3. Frankly, even with COTM books that I've been enthusiastic about, I've seldom wanted to cook from them more than a couple of times a week. I admire those who do more, but I'm usually lucky to try even one COTM recipe per week. So having 2 months would let me fit more into my schedule.

                                              The downside of having 2 books would be that it might dilute participation in both of them. However, I suspect that it might actually increase participation due to the reasons I listed above. I think it could be worth trying for, say, 6 months, and see how it works.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                I like it. The 2 books for 2 months model has worked well during the holiday "revisits", when we go back and cook from past COTM selections.

                                              2. I just wanted to make a comment in response to an issue a couple of people brought up here. I only occasionally participate, i.e., use the books and post reports (and FWIW, I have never voted for a book, because I don't think it's appropriate if I'm not sure I'll participate), but I have been reading along on most threads since the very beginning. With only a couple of exceptions, I don't recall Chowhounds *who actually participate in COTM* getting upset that others have made changes to the written recipes. Participants have always made the point that it's important to indicate whether you've made changes and what they were, so readers know how that affected the outcome, but I have not seen people jumped on for doing so. On the contrary, many times it has sparked interest or discussion when someone made a change in ingredients or method due to availabilty of ingredients, taste, dietary restrictions, or whatever. I personally have gained from those posts when a recipe suddenly seeme doable or appealing based on a riff someone posted about, an ingredient substitution made, etc.

                                                To me, the ethos of COTM has always been about people sharing their experiences cooking from a certain cookbook, whatever shape those experiences take, without prerequisites. It's not a science experiment where we aim to develop a control on how a recipe works, or a formal review as one would read in a newspaper, and I personally feel it should take whatever shape it does organically, in as inclusive a way as possible. After all, this isn't a random bunch of reviewers on Epicurious writing, "I substituted cabbage for chocolate and it was terrible and didn't work at all...zero forks!" but a collection of fairly savvy cooks in a back-and-forth conversation. As long as people post honestly about what they did, I have no issue, and in fact think it's interesting, potentially useful, and reflective of the way most of us actually cook and use cookbooks.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                  Well said. I just remember someone saying I'd altered a recipe so much it was not the same. I'm sorry I don't remember what dish or what cookbook, but I do think it was well over a year ago. Certainly, I don't get comments every time I alter recipes, but I have heard from at least one hound who disliked it. I'm not saying they represent a majority view. In fact, I think most hounds are of a similar mind as you and I about the purpose of COTM sharing experience. I've gotten lots of great ideas I actually apply from others here. I do get the feeling there are people here who don't like recipes altered on principle, though.

                                                  ETA: Now that I think about it, it may not have even been a COTM thread! But, have a look at greygarious' thoughts above. It does irritate some. I rather like seeing everyone's different riffs on a theme. We mostly make beautiful music here.

                                                  1. re: amyzan

                                                    I know that I've never gotten any guff for skipping/changing pork to something else, and that The Dairy Queen never got any for lightening recipes. In fact, I know that I appreciated hearing from TDQ how well things worked out when they were lightened. And hey, when someone is a bully, we can all gang up on him or her, deal?

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      Hey there, people were actually extraordinarily supportive when I was making ingredient substitutions--that was most in early to mid 2008. In fact, I recall being really hypersensitive about it and people were STILL really patient with me. I think the key when you change a recipe during COTM is to be a) upfront about what changes you made and b) careful not to blame the recipe or the book or the author when the recipe doesn't work out. If you tweak a recipe and it turns out wonderful, great. But if you deliberately change it and it doesn't work, you can't really blame the author or book for that.

                                                      Also, I think it matters how dramatically you change the recipe. If you swap out full fat sour cream for low fat, or cut the amount of oil by a third, that seems to sit well for most people. But if you change so many ingredients that the character of the recipe is lost, then pan a recipe, then people seem to have less patience for that.

                                                      Sometimes it's hard if you're on a restricted diet or you live a place with limited access to ingredients, etc. and you just want to participate, but you just do the best you can.

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                    2. re: amyzan

                                                      It doesn't irritate me when people change recipes - I do it virtually all the time, but doing so does result in apples to oranges comparisons, sometimes literally ;-) My comment was directed mostly at the tamale/coleslaw projects, which were essentially a bust. Apparently the idea has been dropped.

                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        I'm not familiar with the tamale/coleslaw projects, so I'm afraid this is lost on me. Sorry to be clueless, grey.

                                                        But, clamscasino mentions this phenomena in an earlier post on this thread. I don't think my experience is all that rare. Yes, Lulusmom, I could probably just become a little more thick skinned!

                                                        1. re: amyzan

                                                          I really didn't mean to imply that posters WITHIN the COTM threads were critical of people not making a recipe exactly as written. I think that within COTM people are really quite forgiving. We have allergy issues in our family too (peppercorns) so I always have to substitute for that and also for lack of availability of ingredients. My observation really comes from other threads, such as those found on the Not About Food Board.

                                                          That being said, I love COTM, but sometimes one is just too busy to participate much. And sometimes the spousal unit rebels against too much (insert exotic foreign cuisine here) of something within a small time frame. That's why I like the idea of the 2 month exploration. I can sneak more (insert exotic foreign cuisine here) by the family.

                                                          1. re: clamscasino

                                                            I think I know what you mean by negative comments on NAF about substitutions but I think they were talking about posters who pan a recipe then explain that they for example: swapped olives for apples because they didn't have any - wild substitutions then blame the recipe because they didn't follow it.

                                                            Keep in mind that NAF is a whole 'nother world from Home Cooking I know it's the same site but that Board has a whole other feel to it (am I making any sense here?) I remember some of those recipe review discussions and if I remember correctly I don't think they were directed at anyone here but toward one-time reviewers on epicurious and elsewhere.

                                                            1. re: clamscasino

                                                              Yeah, I've had that problem of other family members getting irritated with too much exotic cuisine. That's when I make burgers! All is usually forgiven. Two months would be fine with me, though I will say it's not my fave idea. I recognize some compromise is in order. But, does that mean the organizer would sign on for a year? That's a long term commitment to ask of a person. A lot can happen unexpectedly in a year.

                                                              Yes, TDQ, I'm pretty careful to note my subs on recipes. There are some cuisines I simply don't make much because I don't eat their basic foodstuffs.

                                                    3. I have loved the COTM, and on selected months, have participated heavily. I feel that the past three months, an odd thing has begun to happen.

                                                      People who have never posted reviews of COTM recipes have become extremely involved in the book selection, and then don't participate. I wouldn't actually mind that this month's book is "How to Cook Everything" if all those enthusiastic voters were posting furiously. But I find it deflating to have books selected that I know I will not enjoy working from, and then see the COTM group dwindle.

                                                      I admit that I have not participated during the past two months. The Italian books were selected just as I learned I need to avoid tomatoes, and "How to Cook Everything" was not ever going to get me excited.

                                                      I love the months that involve culinary challenges and/or distinct "points of view." For me the COTM has pushed me out of my comfort zone into exciting new places. I also like the one month span, since it allows me to jump back in after a month that the chosen book doesn't appeal to me.

                                                      I think that the concept is wonderful and I would hate to see it modified.

                                                      1. I'm sad to say that I have been absent for a little while due to personal issues, I haven't been able to contribute as much as I would like. I was very sad to have missed the Kennedy month, as I had been one of the people who really had been pushing that book.

                                                        I really love COTM, but I do find that life tends to intrude. I may have the best intentions, but sometimes it is just impossible to come through. I find it very hard to try to fit everything into one month, and would be in favour of a longer period (2-3 months) and I like the suggestion to have two choices of books during the longer period. For example, I really liked the Goin/Zuni books together, I thought they were nice complements.

                                                        I don't think we should be so worried about swings in participation. It is clear to me that there are a lot of people who are still very interested, and many who lurk. I think there is a lot COTM has to offer, so as long as there are people participating, I don't think we should worry too much about what the best format is.

                                                        I'm happy to go along with whatever is decided, as long as it continues! I continue to lurk even if I am not so active... and some of my favorite meals have come from COTM, so I am very grateful.

                                                        1. I'm a total COTM lurker.

                                                          I read but never post or vote.

                                                          I would bet there are a lot more like me. I would miss it if it were gone.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Jennalynn

                                                            Count me as another COTM lurker. I'm not really able to participate in the cooking/posting so I refrain from voting but I do enjoy reading about everyone's experiences, especially since I own a lot of the books. I find the comments insightful and entertaining.

                                                          2. I love the COTM threads, even though I haven't been able to participate because I've been without a kitchen for the last six months. I always read the threads even though I don't post much, and I love going back to the old threads and have purchased quite a few cookbooks after the fact based on positive COTM reviews. I was one of the people who voted for Bittman this time around but haven't posted. I apologize. I really thought I would be back in the kitchen by now, but our contractor has not returned to install our stove! I'm hoping to have a working kitchen by the weekend and fully intend to participate in COTM as soon as I do.

                                                            I like the idea of a COTM (as opposed to a COT2M) because when I'm not interested in a book, I want it to change to something else. I can see how a bit of fatigue sets in, though, having to choose an entirely new book every month. I think we should consider more repeating of books that people have really liked. I'm sure there's loads more that we could get out of Hazan, Dunlop, Goins, Rodgers, Vietnamese, Ottolenghi, Arabesque, etc. Doing these books in different seasons would add new and interesting dimensions. People would be able to use books and specialty ingredients they already have instead of having to buy/obtain something new every month. And those who missed the book the first time around would have another chance to participate.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: Westminstress

                                                              I just want to say I'm sorry to hear you don't have a kitchen! I think I'd be hitting up my friends to cook for them. Really, I think I might go mad with unfulfilled cooking desire. Talk about hysteria...

                                                              1. re: amyzan

                                                                thanks! luckily i live in nyc -- lots of great restaurants!

                                                              2. re: Westminstress

                                                                as a newbie I would love the opportunity to go through many of the books that have been COTM in the past. I think it's a fantastic idea, but would it be too repetitive or unexciting for others?

                                                                1. re: ElenaRose

                                                                  Even if people don't want to revisit books more often as a group, it's always worth reading those threads from the previous books and adding to them, I think.

                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                    ElenaRose: One of the best things about revisiting old COTMs is that it brings them back into the mainstream. Others can then see them and a new flurry of posts sometimes begins. I don't think I'm for the idea of formally revisiting them....actually I wouldn't mind doing Dunlop again as well as Julia and Hazan. Talk about an opinion forged in steel, eh?

                                                                    I've actually just finished using a recipe from the last COTM (Kennedy). I made chiles rellenos the other night with great success.

                                                                2. re: Westminstress

                                                                  I think we'd sort of settled on redoing 2 books for the months of Dec/Jan the last two years (although I guess it was Jan/Feb the first time around), knowing that a) people are really busy then, and can't devote themselves to as much cooking, and b) there are a lot of books that people love and want a reason to cook from again - a little push. I have loved those months, but I also like trying new things.

                                                                  1. re: Westminstress

                                                                    "And those who missed the book the first time around..."

                                                                    I hope it's clear to everyone that all of the threads are still there, the opportunity to cook from and post on all past books is not gone. You can jump in anywhere at any time.

                                                                  2. After reading all the posts in this thread I really can't add much more to what's already been said in favor of COTM. Personally, I like the way it's organized now and I'm grateful to those who have volunteered to administrate the proceedings. Sometimes I participate aggressively, sometimes I don't. Whatever happens I feel I gain something of value from each COTM just by reading the reports whether or not I own the book. As for substitutions, adaptations and modifications, I've done some of each for many recipes I've made since forever. That's part of the fun of cooking and when you've been in the kitchen as long as I have you know, basically, what can be used without really bastardizing the recipe. When reporting here, however, I believe I've always mentioned in my report intros exactly which ingredients I substituted and why. That's only fair. There's so much that's good about COTM and the lively community it gathers I hope it continues without interruption.

                                                                    1. Kudos to those who have made COTM so effective a discussion mechanism and source of fund over time. I find myself participating rarely because unless the book itself is exciting to me (Ottolenghi, Cradle of Flavor, Wolfert) I get distracted off the topic by my shopping finds, pantry contents or family realities (just a few days a month are active cooking days anyway.

                                                                      I find the process of identifying a book/reaching agreement while sometimes interesting in itself feels exhausting and may end with a book I dont have (for example I have 2 books by Diana Kennedy but in the recent Mexico month, the more interesting of these was not included) . The work of the coordinator then is quite substantial and the cycle repeats too quickly.

                                                                      I would be more interested at this point in thematic clusters or complarisons when people can draw in all kinds of books and recipes (including online) around a cuisine or type of cooking or dish or Author. Like Christmas Cookies, Cooking of the French/Italian Riviera, Thai, cuban, armenian, indian vegetarian, various italian regional cuisines, persian, home liqueur making, noodles, etc. I could go on and on. This would require less work and coordination, other than choosing a theme. or topic. It could run a month or however long it runs and wouldnt require the endless debates about which book/limiting the books etc. which IMO suck some of the air out of our space.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                        ps I didnt mention what I like best about COTM is that its a community effort. I think I would like it even better if the site fostered or allowed more inperson community developments (potlucks, cookoffs etc even messaging) but I do like it that we are doing someting together in this space.

                                                                      2. I want to echo Lulu's Mom with I LOVE COTM! Take my opinion with a grain of salt as I am mostly a lurker, but an avid one. To me COTM has a much sense of community than some of the other, less focused areas of CH and I feel I've gotten to know many of you through your wonderful reports and my cookbook collection has been much improved by COTM. I am not as accomplished a cook as most of you and between working and two kids under 10, the realities of daily life largely outweigh my intentions to cook from COTM each month. So I largely abstain from voting, unless I really think I can participate. I do want to thank Caitlin for raising the discussion and demonstrating how truly passionate so very many -- even the lurkers like myself -- are about COTM.

                                                                        That said, I would leave COTM largely unchanged. I only have a handful of small, specific suggestions for improvement:

                                                                        1. Don't begin the nomination process until at least the 20th of every month -- psychologically, once that begins participation in the current COTM falls off a cliff. Make the nomination and voting periods as short as possible and make the calendar clear in advance so we can all participate if we want.

                                                                        2. Add a request to voting (but not necessarily nominations) that you only vote if you are reasonably confident that you will be able to participate that month.

                                                                        3. Vote on the top 3-5 nominees -- sometimes I think we narrow the list too much for voting purposes.

                                                                        4. Let's all try to avoid basic books like Bittman -- I'm not anywhere near the cook that most of you are, but even I can't get excited about this one. And while I understand the points of others regarding Ottolenghi and the like, I would never have found that extraordinary book without the pleasures of reading all of your experiences passionately cooking your way through it.

                                                                        5. Keep it one book at a time -- otherwise we get too scattered and lose that great feeling of community and lively debate.

                                                                        My vote goes decidedly against a hiatus -- I think it's so hard to restart. I could live with one book every two months (COT2M as someone said), but I don't think it's as natural a time period.

                                                                        Sorry for the long post -- I guess it's just pent-up COTM enthusiasm coming out. I appreciate all of you encouraing us lurkers to share in the discussion too and for being so welcoming to newcomers.

                                                                        1. As a relative newcomer to COTM, I can say I have enjoyed it and found it quite valuable--as much for other people's posts as for my own participation. I love hearing how others tweak a recipe; that doesn't bother me at all (and if someone makes changes, fails, and blames the recipe, I know how much credence to give that).

                                                                          I participated as much as possible during the recent Jaffrey & Sahni, Stevens, Wells, and Prudhomme months. I did vote for Kennedy, but then March happened in a bigger-than-usual way, and I just couldn't participate (and I suspect that is often the case: voters, with all good intentions, get waylaid by life) so I didn't vote for April as I thought I might try playing catch-up w/ the Kennedy book, which I had purchased expressly for COTM.
                                                                          Once Bittman won, I knew I wouldn't participate. I have nothing against the book--I've given it as a gift many times--but I just couldn't justify buying yet another large "basics [and riffs thereon]" cookbook when I already own so many of those as well as a few other Bittman books. But I certainly don't begrudge the choice, and I have nejoyed reading the posts on the recipes, whether I'm making them myself or not.

                                                                          Of course, it's impossible for everyone to like the book selected or for it to be available for all in the library or for all to be able to find certain ingredients. And individuals have their own approaches to cookbooks and recipes: some will tweak; some won't. Some will write detailed reviews; some will try recipes and not post for various reasons. COTM is like any community--diverse and dynamic; fluid; comprised of individuals w/various responsibilities, restrictions, tastes, and preferences. But it also strikes me as one that is strong and nurturing.

                                                                          Here's a thought, and maybe it's not practical or workable--but what about selecting, say, three completely different books (top three vote-winners? or three types, from these or other categories: ethnic/regional cuisine or single subject/ingredient or restaurant/chef/food celebrity or cooking style?) every three or four months (seasonally)? People could choose to participate in just one if the other books didn't appeal--or all three; the longer period would allow people to switch back and forth if they wanted to, or really get into one book. The variety would allow avid participants some flexibility in their diets if they (or their families) wanted it--what's for dinner need not be Mexican or Cajun or Thai four nights a week! And fewer people would feel left out.

                                                                          As a newbie, I didn't realize participation was down so much; I certainly wouldn't want the generous souls who organize the effort to be wasting their time. So I'll be good with whatever changes might be made to COTM, but I sure would hate to see it go!

                                                                          1. I don't know if this has been said, as I've only read through once. But perhaps we could look through the Home Cooking board to get a general idea of what topics are most popular. Then, we could make nominations with that in mind. I will volunteer to peruse I don't know, say the most recent 50 pages, making a list of topics with whatever criteria we decide makes it popular. Perhaps someone knows a better way to search up popular posts on the HC board? How many posts makes a thread popular, and do tangential discussions or volleys back and forth between two or three posters count toward the total? Oh, I can see this getting complicated. Maybe this isn't such a brilliant idea...but I'll throw it out there to be discussed.

                                                                            1. I rarely get the book on time to participate with COTM, but I often read along and then at the end when its time to buy a special book for myself I end going through the COTM archives to make my decision (Zuni, Vietnamese Kitchen, and currently contemplating fish).
                                                                              When I got my most recent bookstore giftcard I vowed to actually cook along, but then we a few which were of little interest to me.
                                                                              I promise to cease my lurking ways and actually participate if you'll keep it up...

                                                                              1. Maybe what we need to talk about is a way to make the task less onerous for the organizer(s). Since I've not been in that position, I don't really know all the work that goes into it; maybe it is something that can be shared?

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                  Yeah, I'd be willing to share some of the responsibilities, if they can be broken up. I'm a property manager, so my time is often my own to manage, though spring and summer can get pretty crazy.

                                                                                  1. re: amyzan

                                                                                    You know what, the months when I was coordinating, I did post less. It didn't take long, maybe 30 minutes each for nomination, voting, and then the actual threads.

                                                                                2. Hello everyone. I am new to Chowhound. I ran across a few of your threads while researching a new cookbook that interested me. Fascinating! Who knew there was a group of other people like me? I have been cooking for years and I love to collect cookbooks (though I am a snob about only wanting to own deserving cookbooks). LOL But, I don't have any real-life friends who love cooking like I do, except my husband. Really, without the sharing, cooking can be a lonely hobby.

                                                                                  , I would love the opportunity to contribute to your threads. I do have a question: Are there bios of any of you online so that the group can get to know each other better? For instance, I love to bake bread and dabble i home-made yogurt. I love fusion food and I read cookbooks like most people read novels.

                                                                                  As for cookbooks to evaluate, that is a great idea...and I would be interested in evaluating magazines as well. For instance, Saveur has great articles, but I haven't love their recipes. I would be interesting in testing out a specific issue of any magazine, since they often focus on lamb, or Middle Eastern Food, or beef. Food & Wine, Bon appetite, Food network, Cooks Illustrated, Fine Cooking, etc. could be fun as well. I would be interested in knowing just which magazines do offer delicious recipes and which ones just SOUND great but don't deliver.

                                                                                  As for cookbooks, I would love to find one on Ceviche (Seviche if it is Mexican) and test that. Also, given that it is summer, I would love to do a book on entertaining other couples outdoors. Several cookbooks exist that focus soley on salsas as well.

                                                                                  Do you ever evaluate books such as Food & Wine's yearly drink book? Not only does each annual feature the newest & trendiest drink sensations, but they also feature a chapter on best new bar food creations (such as tuna tartare, fried wontons with a twist). I would love to try out some of these appetizers as they would be great for parties and entertaining. Ok, so I do make the tuna tartare...with avacodo and wasabi served in a martini glass (oh so good that you lick the glass).

                                                                                  I guess that I am suggesting that maybe some 'off-the-wall' books (that are still widely availabe) with easy, simple summer fare could be timely. Do any of you grill? I am determined to learn so I can give my husband a break.

                                                                                  Thanks for reading.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: RebeccaJWJ

                                                                                    Welcome, Rebecca. If you click on someones user name (in the lower left hand corner of one of that person's posts) you can see their "bio." Some people put more info in there than others. (I'm afraid I'm one of those who doesn't put much in mine...)

                                                                                    Here's a link to the "master" thread for April's COTM, Bittman's, "How to Cook Everything" in case you'd like to jump in. (Please do! It's never too late!) http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6988...

                                                                                    Here's a link to the "archives" that gives some basic info about how the process works and, also, a listing of all of the books we've done, to give you an idea. http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

                                                                                    I think Willoughby's grilling book is in there for August 2007.

                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                  2. Hi,

                                                                                    I've been away from the boards for awhile now due to personal difficulties. Will try to read through and post some thoughts though this week.

                                                                                    1. A wonderful collection of thoughts... much to ponder.

                                                                                      1. How about having it once a quarter?

                                                                                        1. Here's another suggestion...

                                                                                          How about voting for a 6 month schedule of books? Say two or three months in advance. Then we can announce the schedule and whoever wants to participate during a certain month can, and we can still have focused discussions. The schedule will also give people time to acquire the book in time and give people a chance to peruse it and get their heads around it.

                                                                                          Personally, I absolutely adore COTM and every month I have every intention of participating. I just started a new job in these past few months so I've been insanely busy and have found that by the time I get the book and have a chance to look through it, the month's over...

                                                                                          Most of all, I'd like to join everyone else in saying that I would definitely miss COTM if it were gone.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: soypower

                                                                                            Great idea! And probably makes the job of moderator easier as well by ganging up the nominations and votes.

                                                                                          2. Oh, Caitlin. I feel as though you're speaking directly to me. I've been so out of it for the past 6 months, I only just now discovered this thread.

                                                                                            My mother died, I've been spending more time at her house settling the estate than I have at my own apartment in NYC, I don't have access to the kinds of ingredients in NJ that I do at home in NYC, where--by the way--all my books are. Cooking just isn't as much fun for me right now as it always has been and I'm sure will be again fairly soon. And since I wasn't participating, it didn't seem fair to get involved in either the nominating or the voting.

                                                                                            I have been disappointed in a number of the selections, but that just gives me an excuse to go back and revisit earlier choices. (I still have lots [and lots!] of Hopkinson recipes marked to try and I probably won't be satisfied until I've made just about every single recipe in Molly Stevens's book. Lucques, too, is far from fully explored.) It's hard to have every selection be the kind of out-of-the-park home run that Dunlop was.

                                                                                            I would be very, very sorry to see COTM discontinued. If there were to be a short hiatus (and if that were to be the consensus I would vote that it be for 3 rather than 6 months), perhaps we could use that time to revisit older selections as we did this past when? Jan-Feb? What about a thread where we all post our very favorite COTM recipes with links to our original reports?

                                                                                            I don't think we've run out of enthusiasm, but I do think we've made a few poor choices. It happens--in COTM, in politics, in life. Maybe we're just going through a slow patch. It seems as though it's been a difficult time for quite a few of the long-time COTM participants.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                                              I'm so sorry for your loss, Joan. Take your time.

                                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                Joan, I'm so sorry about your mother. I remember the thread in which you solicited help in designing the perfect birthday luncheon for her and her friends. I'm not sure, but I think it was her 90th? So she certainly had a long life, which I hope was as full of delicious food and good cheer as that birthday celebration clearly was.

                                                                                                This has been an interesting thread to read. People have mentioned various reasons that they are participating less: not liking the books chosen, disillusionment with the process (books unavailable, etc.), family tiring of many meals from given cuisines, fatigue with the one-month format, busyness. I'm sure their are others who, like you, have had life intervene in ways that prevented them from wanting or being able to participate for personal reasons.

                                                                                                I haven't done anything about May yet, because I wanted to find out what people are thinking about COTM and what they want us to do. Maybe I'll try to focus in on some of the ideas thrown out in this thread over the weekend, and then come back here and ask in some (I hope) organized way.

                                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                  Condolences, JoanN.
                                                                                                  And co-sign on your thoughts re: COTM.

                                                                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                    Condolences to you, Joan, and I second your statements relative to COTM.

                                                                                                  2. I love COTM and would hate for it to discontinue. I am not a very frequent poster because of my hours (long commute to work) and an almost 4 year old to take care of. I have been hoping to catch a break to participate more in COTM, but that hasn’t happened yet, especially since I’ll be a starting a new job soon. Having said that, I have learned so much from COTM, various cuisines and I have felt part of the community.

                                                                                                    I love the way COTM is, and even though a month ends very soon, every new month brings so much excitement. But if the decision comes to have COTM or not, I would rather have COT2M, than not have it.

                                                                                                    Lately the nomination process has been starting earlier and earlier in the month. As somebody suggested earlier, this might be affecting psychologically and making the months look closer than they actually are. One more suggestion, we can introduce a break for a month. Even though I don’t know how can we do this, but it might rejuvenate us.

                                                                                                    1. I haven't participated in COTM, but I have enjoyed the experience vicariously and have used it as a resource many times.

                                                                                                      I think I voted once, purchased ingredients and then all hell broke out and I never got to make the planned dishes. My world tends to lean that way....

                                                                                                      Since my life is unpredictable I stopped weekly menu planning/buying years ago. If the gods are smiling and a space of time opens - then, and only then do I shop. Consequently, my purchases tend to be seasonal items. My pantry is well stocked, so once home I thumb through my cookbooks for inspiration if I don't already have an idea.

                                                                                                      Which brings me to a topic I mentioned a year or two ago on another COTM discussion:
                                                                                                      I would be much more inclined to participate in and follow a thread which highlighted recipe experiences grouped around a season or an ingredient. For example, for summer the broader topic of salads could be a month or two, with separate categories for side salad, main dish salad, fruit salad, etc. Or perhaps a half dozen seasonal items : asparagus, rhubarb, fiddleheads, etc.

                                                                                                      This would give folks who aren't inclined to focus on one cookbook for a month a chance to review a variety of recipes (oldies and new ones) that they are using based on the season.

                                                                                                      I'm not anti COTM in any way! Just thinking about why I don't participate and what format would better fit and encourage me to join in this type of conversation rather than just lurk!

                                                                                                      1. Hi Caitlin

                                                                                                        I'm just wondering if any conclusions have been reached yet, as it's now the 20th April and May is fast approaching. I don't have the Bittman, so I'd be keen to do something else in May if COTM is to continue in its present format. Thanks.

                                                                                                        1. I love the COTM and hope it continues. I like the idea of the cookbook being for two months instead of one as I've been so busy lately, I haven't found the time to do all the recipes I want to before the month is up. Personally, I'm more motivated to participate when the book explores a particular cuisine or country rather than every-day cooking. Either way, I hope it continues, just made chilaquiles from Kennedy's book for lunch today!

                                                                                                          1. I'm very curious to know what is to become of COTM. Will we be nominating cookbooks for May? Also, where are all the Bittman reports from all the folks who voted for the book.....?

                                                                                                            19 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                                                              I'm wondering about all those pro-Bittman voting reports too ...

                                                                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                Ah, they had the best of intentions, as we all do, but life intervened and they got busy and distracted; or (hopefully not) they got discouraged when the participation was low, and stopped cooking and/or posting. It's happened to me, more than once, I tell you!

                                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                  If I had a guess, Id guess people voted for Bittman because they have it not because they were particularly enthusiastic about cooking from it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                    It has certainly happened to me too. But there were so many votes for it, and there are truly so few posts. But you're right - life happens, cooking doesn't. We've all been there.

                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                      I was a Bittman voter, and I still want and intend to cook from the book. But April has been totally crazy for me. If I'm lucky, I'll manage a few recipes in the next week. I certainly intend to continue posting to the threads in months to come.

                                                                                                                      There are so many great recipes in BIttman that I don't understand why people are so negative about it. Otoh, I couldn't get into Roast Chicken or Elizabeth David at all (or the Alice Waters book we chose, or Kennedy, for that matter), so I do understand how some cookbooks just don't inspire some folks.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                    It did seem like there was a lot of support for Bittman, which hasn't translated into posts. I would very much like to choose a new book for May as well, especially as I don't have Bittman and I miss COTM! I'm considering starting a thread on the new Gourmet book just so we have something to talk about!

                                                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                      I like the Gourmet book and miss the COTM enthusiasm. I'd join you in that endeavor.

                                                                                                                      I was thinking about threads titled something like "Cooking the Book: (name of book)", or "Off the Shelf," similar to what I did with the BAY'A threads. For example, I just received a new cookbook based on meals an Italian policeman eats at home and in Venetian trattoria..."Brunetti's Cookbook." I've made 2 recipes so far and we liked both. Venetian flavors are more subtle than Naples and points south, so it's a revelation to me but something very homey and satisfying.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                        my daughter is cooking from the Gourmet book and it does seem pretty good

                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                          I'd be up for threads on the Complete Asian Cookbook (which I believe the two of you both recommended) and for the River Cafe books, if we don't end up having a COTM for May.

                                                                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                            Oh I Love that Asian cookbook...I could do that. The book includes 15 countries, and essays on all the pantry items, customs, etc. for each.
                                                                                                                            Charmaine Soloman is a renown food writer from Singapore. There are several editions but I don't think that would matter.

                                                                                                                            I don't have the River Cafe books... yet... but tons of their recipes are on-line.

                                                                                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                              Im actually not that hot on the Solomon book but I own it and would be willing to give it a try. and be proven wrong if it were chosen Id be willing to give River Cafe a try too, as long as I dont have to buy anything.

                                                                                                                              Actually I just went out and bought some thai and lemon basil plants (too early for outside, I think) in hopes of getting going on Cradle of Flavor and maybe some thai recipes when it gets warmer.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                              I've been thinking more and more about starting "Cooking the Book: (name of book)" type threads myself. There are so many books out there and so few months in a year to choose them as COTM.

                                                                                                                              Oh, I need to take a look at Brunetti's Cookbook! That's based on the Donna Leon mysteries, isn't it? I loved that series.

                                                                                                                            3. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                              greedygirl, I just got Gourmet Today myself, and had thought it would be great to have a thread on it. In fact, I think I will start a thread today on the Gourmet Cookbook and Gourmet Today, so we can talk about recipes from both the yellow and green books in one place. There has been a lot of enthusiasm for both on CH.

                                                                                                                            4. re: Gio

                                                                                                                              Hi Gio and others - we will definitely be voting on a book for May! I have waited before starting the process because I wanted to see if a consensus emerged from this thread about what people want for COTM.

                                                                                                                              This is Chowhound, so of course responses have been all over the map, but after reading through this thread again, I am going to suggest that we choose either one or two books to cook from for a two-month period, as many people seem to feel that would make it easier for them to participate more fully. Provided a hue and cry doesn't arise here in the next few hours, I will put up a nomination thread for May-June.

                                                                                                                              Would people prefer to stick to one book (or two related books) as we have in the past, vs. two unrelated books?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                Thanks, Caitlin.
                                                                                                                                Maybe two unrelated would allow more people to participate?
                                                                                                                                I think the two-month period will also help.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                  thanks so much Caitlin, for all your work, and sorting through these various thoughts/opinions to try to figure out what to do next. It is much appreciated.

                                                                                                                                  Personally I'd rather have 2 related books.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                    <"Would people prefer to stick to one book (or two related books) as we have in the past, vs. two unrelated books?>"

                                                                                                                                    Honestly, Caitlin, I can see the value in each of your options.
                                                                                                                                    One book for two months lets us immerse ourselves in a particular cuisine while giving us more time to do it. Two related books gives us a chance to compare two authors take on the same cuisine. OTOH, two unrelated books gives us more opportunities for variety.

                                                                                                                                    I'm fine with whatever the majority decides, but I lean toward 2 unrelated books for 2 months.

                                                                                                                                    Many thanks for putting all of this together for us. I got a headache just reading the differing opinions.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                      What really got to me reading the various posts here was how many appreciative lurkers there are out there. I had no idea.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                      Haven't read all the responses to this posting, but how about this idea..... two books, unrelated or related. One investigates a particular cuisine in depth [the kind of book that excites me] and one a more general knowledge book [like Bittman.] For those people who are willing to source materials, and find kaffir limes in January, they have their book... and those that want to perfect a more general American approach would have a more general approach.

                                                                                                                                      Actually, this doesn't sounds as good on paper as it did in my head, but maybe you can translate it into something that makes more sense.

                                                                                                                                  2. I haven't participated but if we had multiple books and a longer period, I probably would. One month is too short. (I do enjoy reading the posts, though, and I'd miss it if it went away.)

                                                                                                                                    1. I’m all for giving CO2M a try for a while to see whether or not it works for us.

                                                                                                                                      I’m less sure about 2 books and what “related” might or might not mean. If we do 2 unrelated books in 2 months, isn’t that essentially the same as doing one book one month and another the next? Yes, it allows for more variety, but it’s still basically the same number of recipes in the same amount of time.

                                                                                                                                      I would be more amenable to the idea of two titles that were very specifically related, e.g. the two Gourmet books, or the Solomon book plus the Nguyen dumpling book, or Jean Anderson Cooks along with her Food of Portugal book.

                                                                                                                                      If we do do something like this, I would recommend that for clarity, as well as for the coordinator’s sanity, that the two books be handled in discrete threads rather than trying to combine them. This just off the top of my head; haven’t really thought it through yet. But I would think it would make the threads less unwieldy and reports easier to find.

                                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                        two books same topic -same threads
                                                                                                                                        two books differerent topic - different threads (this includes Jean Anderson Portugal and Cooks -totally different topics.

                                                                                                                                        like I said somewhere upthread I am sort of more in favor of topical threads, since we sometimes avoid cuisines where we cant agree on the best book - Thai is an example and indian took a long time but whatever the hounds want is fine I will play if I can

                                                                                                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                          Joan, you feel that in the past the combined threads for two books have been unwieldy? If I'm recalling correctly, there has always been one set of threads used for the various books together when multiple books were bundled in a single month.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                            Caitlin, I think you do recall correctly about the two books being combined in a single set of threads. Southern month (last fall) is a good example of how it worked. I thought I would just cook from one but ended up getting both from the library. It was nice to see two takes on the same subject. And iI really like the idea of going for two months.

                                                                                                                                            Also, as said upthread, I too was surprised at how many lurkers there are out there. But I do wish they would post sometimes, or at least share with us why they don't...

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                              That's true. There always has been just a single thread for two or even more books. I thought it worked well with Dunlop, less well with the Vietnamese books, and--for me at least--it just became annoying with Batali.

                                                                                                                                              I think Jen makes a good point. But are the Gourment books one topic or two? I happen to have both books so it probably wouldn't make a difference to me either way. Perhaps my thinking on this has been influenced by the fact that I only had one Vietnamese book and one Batali book. (Although at the beginning I only had one Dunlop as well.) When I was following along in real time I had no difficulty distinguishing among the titles. But when I go back to look at those threads, especially if I've come to it through a search, I sometimes have trouble figuring out which book is being discussed.

                                                                                                                                              Yes, I do think some of those combined threads were unwieldy. But not a big deal, and maybe it would be better to make only one major change at a time.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                                Hmmmmm...on the other hand, during Casas month, each of the four books had its own thread. Even though there was pretty good participation overall that month, I seemed to be one of the few cooking from Cocina de Mama, so, it was almost as if I were cooking alone, which seemed to be counter to the whole point of COTM and pretty discouraging.

                                                                                                                                                My situation for Vietnamese and Dunlop was the opposite of yours, I had both books for both occasions and I didn't find the combined threads unwieldy. (Although, today they are pretty monstrous!)

                                                                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                  I think as long as we have a convention (an abbreviation for each title or such) there should be no real problem mixing books on a thread. It doesnt make much sense to have 2 or three threads going on the same topic (i.e. Spanish vegetables) at the same time, and the ability to contrast the books is lost if they are split apart.

                                                                                                                                                  Im sort of hoping we can resurrect Ottolenghi after when the Plenty book comes out - in theory it should be possible to just add onto existing threads

                                                                                                                                            2. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                              That Jean Anderson idea is utterly brilliant even if the topics are quite different. Great books.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                A vote from me to keep the acronym the same, for ease of searching!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                                                                  Oh for sure!

                                                                                                                                                  EDIT: it looks like Caitlin is way ahead of us in her nominations thread, calling it "Cookbook of the Months," which is still COTM!

                                                                                                                                                  ~TDQ