Cooking Guide: Can’t Decide What to Eat?

I don’t typically cover food and drink on this blog. Foodie blogging is the domain of my good friend, Helen. I dislike cooking. It’s not that I’m bad at it, it’s that I don’t have much imagination in the kitchen, nor do I ever know what to cook because my current diet is admittedly kind of limited. It’s not as bad as a university student, but it could use improvement.

Enter Cooking Guide: Can’t Decide What to Eat? for the Nintendo DS. Cooking Guide is a digital cook book which was released on the DS two years ago in Japan. I have the European version, which saw release in June 2008. North America is due to see a release this November. I expect that the North American release will be localised to suit that market in terms of voiceovers, recipes, and use of the Imperial system of measurement. Since I imported from the UK (via one of my friends — cheers, Ross!), the price is higher than I would have paid for if I bought the North American version later this year.

Nintendo has done a good job of creating games outside the traditional gamer demographic, and Cooking Guide is no exception. This ‘game’ is quite accessible, user-friendly, and provides enough detail and explanaton for novice cooks.

Cooking Guide features recipes for 245 dishes from around the world, including salads, soups, meat, fish, noodle dishes, and desserts. There are loads and loads of pictures throughout, which is really helpful in shopping for ingredients and actually getting down to cooking.

In addition to recipes, Cooking Guide also features a “Cooking A-Z” section which instructs users on basic cooking techniques and provides information about utensils, terminology, and ingredients you can use as subsitites. There are even videos which show you how to do things like julienne carrots, clean a rainbow trout, and fillet a flatfish. Nutrition information is also presented with each dish.

One of the coolest features of Cooking Guide is the ability to save checked ingredients from a dish you’d like to cook to a Shopping List. The idea is for you to take your DS with you when you go food shopping. At the Settings menu, you can choose to exclude ingredients. So for example, if you have a food allergy and you don’t want to prepare dishes that require a certain ingredient, you can use this feature.

When browsing the list of dishes, you can choose to view them alphabetically or by country. When you select a dish, you are presented with a colourful picture of the finished product. You can also view the dish’s ingredients, the steps needed for preparation, or you can go ahead and start cooking the dish.

During the actual preparation and cooking of a dish, Cooking Guide speaks to you, telling you what to do every single step of the way. If the chef speaks too slowly or too quickly, you can adjust his voice speed in the Settings menu. You can speak into the DS’s microphone to prompt Cooking Guide to move to the next step, or you can tap the touch screen with your stylus. At any point during the preparation of a dish, you can take a look at the dish’s ingredients list, or you can go back to previous steps. I opted not to use voice commands, because I found the mic was a little too sensitive. It picked up the sound of my chopping and kept prompting me to repeat my command. If you choose, you can also use the timer function to assist you when you cook. I was very pleased with the instructions, and never did I feel as if the chef was rushing me.

Earlier tonight, I made two dishes from France using Cooking Guide. I cooked Poulet Marengo, which is “chicken cooked in a rich white wine and tomato sauce” and Petits Pois à la Française, which is “a simple recipe for French-style peas”. Here are the results:

Poulet Marengo

Petits Pois à la Française

Visually, the food turned out very well. How did it taste? Critics (well, my significant other) exclaimed, “Om nom nom!” and that the meal was “wonderful” and “delicious”. We topped dinner off with some store-bought cheesecake. It was a great meal all around.

I recommend Cooking Guide: Can’t Decide What to Eat? for DS owners who would like an accessible cookbook and would like to expand their diet. Cooking Guide is probably more expensive than basic paper-based cookbooks, but the interactive aspect  as well as the number and variety of dishes available more than made up for the price difference.

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