I think it's reasonable to be skeptical about a cookbook based on Twitter. After all, 140 characters would barely even cover the ingredient list of the most basic recipe. But that is the beauty and the charm of Eat Tweet by Maureen Evans (known as @cookbook on Twitter). Not only does she convey the ingredients and amounts for more than 1,000 recipes, but she is able to work within that space constraint to communicate the techniques as well, albeit in their simplest, most condensed form. An example:
Brwn lb choplamb/2T buttr/t dryging&turmeric&cinn&s+p; +2c onion&carrot 9m; +c Stock/3T honey/9pitdprune. Cvr~h@400F
We made this for dinner the other night. I browned a pound of chopped lamb in 2 Tbsp. of butter and a teaspoon each of dried ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Then I added 2 cups each of chopped onions and carrots and cooked for 9 minutes or so. I added a cup of chicken stock, 3 Tbsp. of honey, and 9 pitted prunes, and then braised the whole thing in a 400°F oven, covered, for an hour. The result was tender, succulent lamb in a sweet, warmly spiced sauce, fabulous over cous cous with cucumber raita on the side. (The prunes are delicious here, adding sweetness and depth, so don't omit them—just maybe don't eat all 9 in one sitting if you know what I'm saying.)
Evans' training as a poet shows in her thoughtful use of language, as does her range in the kitchen. Recipes for pot roast and pizza lie alongside Irish colcannon, Mexican migas, Italian fennel pie, Indian brown dal, pad Thai, even Julia Child's famous boeuf bourguignon—worldly recipes communicated with surprising clarity. Part of the fun is figuring out the code. I love a good puzzle (as evidenced by the nearly 400 Twitter cryptograms I've created at codeSparrow), and this book makes me want to convert all my recipes to 140-character shorthand just for fun.
But why is this useful? Well, for one, you can fit a lot more information into a small space that way. Eat Tweet is like three cookbooks in one, and a small one at that. Spending a weekend at a remote cabin with no internet access? You have the inspiration of a thousand practical recipes in your back pocket. It's a handy guide for cooks like me who like to flip through for ideas or to remind myself of ingredient ratios. Plus, without all those extra words, you can really get to the heart of a recipe. You see all the essential parts in tight focus—the rest can be improvised.
Of course, space limitations have their cons. Many novice cooks will likely find the lack of detail frustrating. How big of a pot do you need? Do you chop the onions or slice them? But if you look at cooking as an adventure, you will find that you gain confidence in the kitchen through experience. Most recipes can work lots of ways, not just one. Think of the format as the scaffolding on which to develop your own cooking style. In fact, I think this book would make a fun (and inexpensive) graduation present for hungry college seniors about to be unleashed upon the world. Note to college seniors: you should have plenty of time to cook!
In that spirit, Artisan has graciously agreed to gift one copy of Eat Tweet to a lucky FotF reader. Here's how to win: condense a favorite recipe into 140 characters or less and post it in the comment section (spaces count as characters). How you condense it is up to you, as long as it's comprehensible. See example above. Recipes will be graded on clarity, potential deliciousness, and creativity. You don't have to be on Twitter, like Twitter, or even know what Twitter is to win. Good luck. You have until Wednesday.