Corporate Media Fail: Episode 546

media failIt’s Monday and I feel a rant coming on.

Over the weekend the folks at The Rambling Epicure linked to this review of a cookbook. The review, entitled “The Worst Mexican Cookbook in the World”, documents blogger Christine Gilbert’s heroic attempts to duplicate recipes from a book that is supposed to provide a thorough, authentic overview of Mexican cooking.

One of the recipes in question is for guacamole to serve 4 people and includes one avocado—one avocado!—along with a tomato, 1/2 an onion, 1 Serrano pepper (with seeds!)  and 4 tablespoons of olive oil (huh?) among other ingredients. You don’t have to be a chef (or even a half-conscious home cook) to realize this won’t work, unless you like hot, bitter, greasy guacamole. Recipes for tortillas were similarly nonsensical.

I don’t live in Mexico. But I live in Southern California where guacamole is a religion—guacamole is about avocados, with tomatoes and onions playing a minor supporting role, and no one puts olive oil in guacamole. I wonder how many super bowl parties have been ruined by this recipe. With the relatively simple guacamole and tortillas so disastrous, I can’t imagine what the mole recipes are like—ketchup and chile powder?

Gilbert sums it up:

“Let me repeat. This is the worst cookbook ever. The recipes were not tested and I really doubt the author wrote this”.

It is important to realize that this is not a self-published Kindle book selling for $2 on Amazon. The book is Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte published by the prominent publisher Phaidon Press with global distribution and currently selling for $30 on Amazon.

Of course, there are lots of bad books out there. But what really galls me are the reviews of this book.

Again, Gilbert documents the damage:

“If you want to give your taste buds a gustatory tour of Mexico, then Margarita Carrillo is ready to be your guide with Mexico: The Cookbook, her new, encyclopedic take on her country’s cuisine.” – NPR Morning Edition

Mexico: The Cookbook does for Mexican food what Julia Child did for French cuisine.” –

“Jammed full of recipes, Mexico: The Cookbook is a work of staggering breadth, but it’s also a pleasure to read, with recipes ranging far from enchiladas suizas.” – The New York Times Book Review

“A showstopper. The recipes are as approachable as they are plentiful. Consider it a necessity.” –

And it goes on and on like this with almost every major publication and online magazine concerned with food singing the book’s praises.

Bad books are common but it’s the media’s job to sort the good from the bad and give consumers guidance. It’s clear that these reviewers are just mailing it in or are being paid for their praise. It takes a blogger working on her own time to uncover the truth about this travesty.

If this political season hasn’t convinced you to abandon corporate media then maybe stories like this will.

The decline and utter incompetence of the American press corps is one of the great untold stories of our time. But then who would tell that story?

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