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Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough
Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Ten Speed Press / Random House
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-580-08303-4
Publication Date: 10-18-2011
399 Pages; $32.50
Date Reviewed: 11-02-11

Index:  Non-Fiction

Cookbooks tend to concern themselves with the last stages of cooking. You get recipes, which typically involve a list of ingredients and instructions for combining them. It's a simple format if you've got good recipes, and easy enough to use if you've got the ingredients — or practically unlimited time and money to buy them.

That's the catch. In everyday life, we do not cook like a cooking show. We have to stock our shelves within our means, have stuff on hand, and cook with what's in the house. I don't know that it's become a topic of the "national conversation," but the cost of any trip to the grocery store is becoming alarmingly high. We have to shop less and shop smarter. We have to make less money go farther, and your average cookbook only gives us small slice of that pie.

'Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food' by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough is not your average cookbook, and in many ways, it is not a cookbook at all. It does include recipes, many of them makeable, all of them tasty. But the value of this book is how it helps you before you start cooking. Here is a great guide to buying smart so that you can cook well.

Reading the book is pretty much like visiting the best grocery store you've ever been to with a guide who helps you make smart choices. You start off with a chapter called "Creating Community Through Food," which is not as obvious as it sounds. It's a really entertaining look at why you should cook for yourself and others, and how, given that decision, the rest of your shopping spree, so to speak, will go.

After that, settle down for 8 chapters of great advice, lavishly illustrated and extremely well art-directed, as you go through each department of the store. This is a book that will tell you things that will save you money, make what you buy last longer, and be sure that what you buy gets you the best bang for the buck. Sprinkled throughout are recipes, some justly famous, that will give you something to shoot for. You get advice like how to store basil (it really damn works) and what kind of canned tomatoes to buy. You learn how to chose meat, vegetables, fruit. I guess we're all supposed to pretend we know all this stuff, but the fact of the matter is that I'm guessing readers will discover what I did. That would be that the veracity of what you don't know is confirmed by the truth of what you do know.

Take a couple of minutes as you enjoy this book, and use it to help you prepare your trips to the grocery store, to appreciate and enjoy the stunning photography of France Ruffenach, who makes everything look good. That's not easy! The design by Nancy Austin, and food and prop styling by George Dolese are also critical. The whole package matters because this is a book about the whole package. We don't live recipe lives; we live full, and hopefully rich lives no matter how much or little money we have. Everyone has to earn their keep, and 'Eat Good Food' will earn its keep by helping you achieve the simple-sounding, but very difficult goal encapsulated in the title. Visit the store; eat good food.

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