The cookbook club reviews Anne Mendelson's Milk

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First aired on In Town and Out (3/3/12)

It was all dairy, all the time for In Town and Out's cookbook club this month. Host Michael Bhardwaj and his two cookbook reviewers, Sylvia Ralphs-Thibodeau and her husband Richard Thibodeau were deep in cream, butter, yogurt and cheese as they reviewed Anne Mendelson's Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages.

The reviewers found this to be more of a history book than a cookbook. Mendelson writes an in-depth history of milk and milking animals from prehistoric days all the way to the rise of industrial, factory-farmed dairy. While the reviewers were interested in the history of milk, they all found it far too involved for their tastes. "Oh goodness, this is not a cookbook, this is a textbook,"  was Sylvia's first thought. "I was a little chagrined. I thought this was going to be a book report."

Richard agreed. While the couple found the history of milk interesting, it was too detailed for the amateur foodie. "I started wondering, 'When do we get to the recipes?'" he said. "The history part was interesting, but it's extremely wordy."

However, the reviewers began to change their tune once they started tackling the recipes -- 72 pages in. They taste-tested different kinds of milk and tried out several recipes, from the most basic to the very complicated. Sylvia and Richard even hosted a dinner party consisting solely of recipes from Milk. "It was quite fun," Sylvia said.

So their final vote? Sylvia thinks "the book needed a very good edit. I was particularly distressed by the format." While the recipes were a success, the book itself "felt like a history book and didn't help the reader at all."

Don't cry over Milk. Skip the history lesson, but enjoy the delicious dairy recipes.

Apple-onion cream soup



  • 4 to 6 thick slices of bacon, diced
  • 3 to 4 apples, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large onions, diced
  • 3 cups good beef broth
  • 6 to 8 whole allspice berries
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A dash of lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon carraway seeds, lightly bruised (optional)


  • 1. Cook the bacon slowly in a heavy skillet to render out all the fat. When it is crisp, scoop it out of the fat and drain on paper towels.

  • 2. Sauté the diced apples over medium heat in the same skillet, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Scoop out a few spoonfuls of the apples for garnish and set aside.

  • 3. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. When it foams and sizzles, add the chopped onions and sauté very patiently over low heat, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are well softened and starting to brown. Scoop out a few spoonfuls for garnish and set aside with the reserved apples.

  • 4. Add the rest of the apples to the onions, pour in the broth, add the allspice, and simmer until everything is nearly dissolved, 10 to 15 minutes. Fish out and discard the allspice.

  • 5. Pureé the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, making sure to leave the texture slightly coarse.

  • 6. Return the soup to the pot, heat to a boil, and stir in the cream. Let it come to a boil again, add the salt and a grinding of pepper, and taste for seasoning; if it seems too bland, squeeze in a little lemon juice. If it is too thick for your taste, thin it with some hot water.

  • 7. Serve garnished with the reserved bacon, apple, and onion. I like a scattering of carraway seed as well.

StampedeMilk: The Surprising Story Of Milk Through the Ages
by Anne Mendelson

Buy this book at:
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From the publisher: 

"Part cookbook-with more than 120 enticing recipes-part culinary history, part inquiry into the evolution of an industry, Milk is a one-of-a-kind book that will forever change the way we think about dairy products.

Anne Mendelson, author of Stand Facing the Stove, first explores the earliest Old World homes of yogurt and kindred fermented products made primarily from sheep's and goats' milk and soured as a natural consequence of climate. Out of this ancient heritage from lands that include Greece, Bosnia, Turkey, Israel, Persia, Afghanistan, and India, she mines a rich source of culinary traditions."

Read more at Random House Canada.