No, Im not talking about Cooking Mama (although I do love that game) Im talking about cookbooks for the DS. When I was in Japan one of the things I envied in the game shops was the sheer number of cookbooks for DS. Walking down the aisles of the many electronic shops in Akihabara here were dozens and dozens of them, sadly my total lack of reading any Japanese prevented me from picking any of them up. However when I was out shopping this weekend I saw Personal Trainer: Cooking available for the DS and quickly snatched it up.
I LOVE THIS PROGRAM! There just wanted to get that out of the way before I go any further. This is seriously such an amazing program and incredible for the $19 sticker price (by the way, I’m saying program because this isn’t a game so much as a computer application). Personal Trainer: Cooking features over 240 recipes from all over the world all with step by step instructions to help you create spectacular meals.
The best part of this program is the attention to little details that they put into it. If you are making Spinach Namul and don’t know how to blanch spinach, in the middle of the recipe it will give you the option to click on a mini guide to perfectly blanching spinach. There are even videos for some preparation tips, like how to clean a trout or perfectly dice garlic. Another nice touch is the kitchen timer that will pop up in the middle of you cooking steps and it will be automatically preset with the time needed for that recipe. You can also adjust the number of servings to be either 1, 2, 4 or 6 and it will automatically adjust the recipe accordingly.
Example of cooking video….look REAL people! Not cartoons!!
However, the greatest feature of all would have to be the voice control option that lets you repeat a step, go back or move on to the next without ever touching your DS (trust me chicken grease and a touch screen don’t mix). My biggest gripe with cook books is having to constantly dry my hands so I can look up the next step. With Personal Trainer: Cooking I can just say the word and it reads off the steps too me along with photos to illustrate the task.
The step menu allows you to pick up where you left off or skip ahead.
Searching on this program is also far better than any cook book because aside from searching by region or ingredient you can get really specific. To decide Monday night’s dinner I looked up by ingredient and calorie count (after eating heavy foods over the holiday I wanted something light). We have a ton of cucumber so I put that in and the result was a Chinese dish called Bang Bang Chicken which features a spicy sesame sauce and cucumber slices. It was delicious! Tonight I decided I want to cook some gorgeous salmon steaks that we have in the fridge, so I found a nice French recipe for Salmon with Green Sauce and a side of ratatouille to accompany it.
When you are looking at a recipe it displays the ingredients and allows you to check off ones that you are missing and it creates a shopping list to take with you to the store! But, lets say you’re at the store and you don’t know what parsley looks like, well it has photos of all the ingredients to help you along. Or what if you get to the store and they are out of an ingredient? Many ingredients have substitution suggestions like using unsweetened peanut butter if you can’t find sesame paste. Another nice feature is you can set the program to exclude certain ingredients. So if you are like my friend Becky and unfortunately unable to eat onions, with a click of a button you can make sure no onion recipes ever grace your DS.
You can use the map to look around the world to find your next meal! All the meals display a picture along with calories, time needed to cook and a short description.
The only thing that Personal Trainer: Cooking doesn’t have that I would like is a meal planner where you could schedule out the recipes you want to cook for certain days. If it had this feature, it would be the most perfect program ever! I am able to somewhat simulate this by adding a note to the recipes I want to use saying “Thursday night dinner” and I can then filter the recipes by notes. Its not the best solution but it works.
Another nice section is the Homemade Ingredients which teaches you how to make basic stuff like pizza dough or Béchamel sauce.
Overall, what I like most about Personal Trainer: Cooking is that they didn’t half-ass the game. They couldve easily shat out a bunch of recipes that you just tap through, but they didn’t go that route. All the little details and perks are what make this one step above your average print cookbook. They really thought about everything that someone would want or need in the kitchen. Hopefully this will inspire more cooking programs for the DS and PSP, I would also love to see celebrity sponsored editions (ahem Alton Brown’s Cooking for DS please!). Apparently a program called Whats Cooking? With Jamie Oliver did come out recently so I am now on the hunt for a copy of that (although I’ve heard that one isn’t quite as good). Honestly I would buy just about any other DS cookbook as long as its even half as good as Personal Trainer: Cooking. If I were to score this program I would undoubtedly give it an A!