The Frugal Gourmet

During the 1980’s, Jeff Smith has built a nationwide following on public television as a chef with a difference. Smith is an ordained minister whose television bonhomie is as intriguing and unpretentious as his recipes. He approaches his cooking as a curious layman rather than as an exotically trained specialist, and he is as intrigued by vegetables and grains in their natural state as by what can be done to them in the kitchen.

Anyone who enjoys Smith on the air will enjoy him in print. This book collects several hundred of his recipes, provides detailed cooking instructions and frames each dish with chatty comments about the ingredients, the uses of the recipe, and appropriate accompanying foods. Dishes range across the gastronomic spectrum, from soups to desserts, from traditional American dishes to Cantonese, Lebanese, and Polish selections.

THE FRUGAL GOURMET also provides a lot of extras not found in many cooking books. Several introductory sections carefully explain cooking terms, the variety of wares, utensils, and spices needed for a well stocked kitchen, and historical backgrounds for many different types of food. The book has special sections on low-salt, low-fat, and yogurt recipes. Throughout, Smith emphasizes how delicious meals can be built from simple, natural, relatively inexpensive ingredients.

The prospective reader should be warned on two points. This book is by no means an encyclopedic cookbook; despite its wide breadth, the recipes reflect the author’s interest primarily and many well-known dishes are left out. Also, most of the meals outlined in the book are quite time-consuming; Smith’s repertoire requires more commitment than expertise.

These characteristics are part of the book’s charm, however. THE FRUGAL GOURMET is an enjoyable ramble through the world of food.