But I don’t live in Sardinia, and I certainly don’t have a wood-burning fireplace in my kitchen. Nor do I have access to the ingredients that a good 50 percent of the recipes in Sweet Myrtle require. I live in Chicago, and while I have access to a good number of strange foods that rot in my fridge while I try to figure out what to do with them, I can’t find mosto d’uva. Or abbamele, a honey and pollen reduction. Even the dish on the cover calls for salted, pressed, air-dried fish roe, which is not likely to be found in the local supermarket.

But the idea of my Sardinian home was just too tempting, so I decided to at least give the book a try. I started with something simple: polenta with sausage and tomato sauce. While it was absolutely delicious and quick, it was close to something… More…

The book itself is fertile ground for more mocking. There’s the title, for starters. Surely How to Cook Supper would be more appropriate. Then there’s the layout, which looks like someone just downloaded a bunch of new fonts and wanted to use all of them in one book. The recipes are interspersed with a strange array of quotations about food, like this from Miss Piggy: “You don’t sew with a fork, so I see no reason to eat with knitting needles.” There is no white space, because every square inch has been filled with sidebars, asides with variations on the recipes from the 16th century, recommendations for other cookbooks, explanations on how certain ingredients came into existence, and other useless trivia. Perhaps the book designer has ADD, but I was exhausted just flipping through the book.

And then there are the recipes. Cooking with The Splendid Table felt a little… More…

After one too many scenarios like this one, I decided to do a little investigating on whether cookbooks were tested before being slapped with a $35 price tag and shipped off to bookstores. Turns out, no. A cookbook editor at Doubleday-Broadway told me that the authors are trusted that they know what they are doing.

“Someone should really field test these things,” I grumbled as a “cold, refreshing white gazpacho” came out tasting weirdly like hummus — runny hummus that took me four hours to make. “Someone with a slight obsessive compulsive disorder. Someone who likes it when her surly butcher growls at her.” Strangely, someone took me up on my offer.

Which is how I found myself drunk at the Hispanic grocery store, looking for hominy. I had been seduced by John Thorne’s easy writing style in Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite. Everything sounded effortless, and… More…