By Ellen Perry
“Liz Baer earns her paycheck teaching Latin, but she’s been moonlighting for a little more than a year testing recipes for the forthcoming Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook by Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner. Perhaps it hasn’t crossed your mind that cookbooks need recipe testers, but they do, in the same way that all books need copy editors – or perhaps more urgently, because readers aren’t generally required to eat typos. (For an exception to that rule, keep reading to the end.) For The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook, Baer didn’t test every single recipe herself, but each one was tested more than once. Two authors and two independent testers meant a total of four people who checked and double-checked (and sometimes triple-checked and quadruple-checked) every single recipe.
Bildner and Spungen Bildner, she tells me, have always been interested in small local farms and in promoting farmers from the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, so this cookbook includes profiles of area farmers and their recipes. It also includes recipes developed by Brian Alberg to showcase regional farm products; and recipes donated by area chefs from the menus of their restaurants. Farmers and professional chefs don’t always record recipes in ways that home cooks can follow easily: they might list an ingredient and then leave it out of the instructions, or mention it in the instructions but leave it out of the ingredients list. Chefs might not give time indications, because they’re mixing or whipping or baking their concoctions “until they look (or smell or sound) right.” (I’m quoting my grandmother, there. Her many variations on that phrase are the main reason why my mother, an attorney, was never able to reproduce her extraordinary dishes.)”
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