A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Jamlady Cookbook, a canning guide and recipe collection written entirely in the third person. You can read the review here, or I can summarize it for you: Jamlady is (possibly) crazy.
About a week later, I got an e-mail with a Jamlady return address. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
If I state or suggest that you are crazy, you are always welcome to speak up by emailing me.
Subject: "Jamlady is crazy."
Date: July 18, 2009 7:04:29 PM CDT
I can assure you Jamlady is not crazy. Further, Jamlady thinks you missed the point of the book — guess because you aren't a regular at Jamlady's markets. Jamlady is a tinkerbell who sits on Bev Alfeld's right shoulder. Most good cooks have such an assistant. The assistant (or in Bev Alfeld's case—Jamlady) sits on the cook's shoulder and whispers cooking instructions and comments into the cook's ear.
If you had read Pickles to Relish, this whole mystery is spelled out for you and other readers who have not been to a Jamlady market.
The 3rd person evidently was liked and understood by the judges of the IPPY AWARDS in 2005, because Jamlady got 5th place or honorable mention in the Independent Publishers contest. It was right up there with John Folse's book that got 4th or Honorable mention.
Listen to Bev Alfeld and/or Jamlady speaking through Bev Alfeld on John Folse's radio show on 7/25/09.
Also, Bev Alfeld has has MFA in art and an MA in design. She is an artist and an ethnobotanist who grew up on a large nursery with many greenhouses. She is trying to widen the view for chefs and home cooks—so they understand the complex field of food science and horticulture. Maybe try reading her works again with this new found understanding. Alfeld's two books are ethnobotany cookbooks and represent a lifetime of serious research.
As for the notation system. There was great need for a short way to show the scientific process of rolling water bath and acidified products. Most home cooks just left off the long instructions, which created dangers in under-processing or poor product when over-processed.
Further, I believe a book should be read cover to cover if a reviewer is going to speak accurately about a book. Many of the questions you pose have often been asked by others and are addressed in both cookbooks. And if an author has more than one book out, it might be a good idea to check them both out.????
Lastly, I have been called worse things than crazy. So, you are forgiven. The Jamlady Cookbook is intended to challenge experienced cooks. While it can be used by beginners (there are many books for beginners), it is really trying to teach advanced techniques to those who have worked their way through the simpler and less advanced books. Please view it in that light. Again, the book states this fact.
Here is my reply:
Subject: Re: "Jamlady is crazy."
Date: Sat, Jul 18, 2009 at 7:21 PM
I happened to be sitting in front of my computer when this popped into my inbox.
Your e-mail shows a lot of class — quite possibly more class than I showed when I suggested that the book made you sound crazy. (Although, I should point out in my defense that in the same write-up I did later point out that, in fact, I doubted you were really crazy.)
There is no doubt that your book shows a really deep understanding and appreciation of jam-making and there is much to admire about your book. Honestly, I wish I could write a book that was half as informative. And I will absolutely be checking out "Pickles to Relish."
Thank you so much for taking the time to write.
I wonder if you'd let me reprint your email in its entirety — unedited — on the blog. I feel it would only be fair to let you have your say. But I certainly wouldn't repost your email without your permission, so I'm asking you.
Take care, Jamlady.
p.s. I have a blog entirely about fruit, so there are probably plenty of people who think I'm a little crazy myself.
A few minutes after I sent that last message, I got an email saying that Jamlady was following me on Twitter.
So I think she meant what she said about forgiving me.