The Red Hat Society Cookbook
This cheery cookbook is the brainchild of the Red Hat Society, a nationwide organization of women who like to wear silly hats, enjoy each other's company, and eat dessert first. Their compilation has the feel of an enormous community cookbook, with the same lack of focus, mixed bag of recipes, and overriding spirit of goodwill. Appropriately enough, the volume starts with dessert-four chapters' worth of all-American treats with names like Cantaloupe Chiffon Pie, Ice Cream Crunch Torte and Cookie Dough Cream Cheese Puffs. A whole subset of offerings requires crushed candy bars and/or cake mixes; these desserts tend to be especially sugary and graced with the silliest names possible, like Strawberry Yaya Cake and Popcorn Candy Cake. Of the starters and main dishes on offer, most are convenient, quaint and tasty, but a few too many read like they came from the back of a package. Plum Luscious Roast requires a can of plums and a box of soup mix, and the mildly sweet result tastes faintly chemical. Slap-It-Together Beer Cheese Soup tastes almost entirely of Velveeta, and In-A-Snap Crab Bisque tastes much like the two cans of condensed soup of which it's comprised. Appealing Roast Pork Tenderloin, on the other hand, is full of off-sweet porky flavor, as are tasty Maple-Glazed Ribs. But despite the unevenness of the recipes, this cookbook's fun spirit makes it a winner.