If the Joy of Cooking, at 1136 pages, is just too daunting, if pictures matter a lot to you, and if you're heading into party season without a clue, Joy of Cooking: All About Party Foods & Drinks may be just what you need. This new JOC book plucks most of the party-ready recipes from the larger volume, adds big, full color pictures of most of the finished foods and color or black & white photos of many cooking procedures, and presents it all in a much more user-friendly format.
True, if you simply bought the Joy of Cooking instead of all 12 of the JOC mini-volumes, you'd save enough money to wallpaper your bathroom, but sometimes a single-subject book is all you need.
The recipes produce good, generally attractive party food (and drinks), which is great, because sometimes it can be a real challenge to find innovative, pretty, good-tasting food to take to a party or serve at your own. The recipes are a solid notch down from what you find in something like Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook, but they're also a notch down in complexity, which
is very meaningful to huge segments of the population.
The book follows the time-tested JOC format of introducing each ingredient when you need it in the recipe, which makes is a little more challenging to set up your mise en place, that is, to get all the ingredients assembled before you start cooking. But the recipes are easy enough to follow. The text is studded with useful tips on buying, storing, and preparing ingredients.
If we could improve the book, it would be to categorize or label dishes that can be made in advance and held until party time, and to label those dishes that travel well because we are asked to bring food to parties much more often than we host our own events.