Kirkus Book Review

Kirkus Book Review of IS GOAT BEEF?


A decorated, retired Army veteran shares stories and recipes.

Before giving readers the bulk of the recipes in his debut memoir-cookbook, Camp recounts his expansive 32-year military career, relating how his life became shaped and enriched by his experiences while serving his country. “The stories in this book are about camaraderie, shared misery and the love shared by brothers-in-arms,” he explains. It is these anecdotes of his life, each thoughtfully rendered, that connect and ground the recipes to the author’s history on the front lines. Camp’s adventures in basic training inspire appetizers like flavorful Roasted Corn Salad and a temptingly easy potato salad with dill and stone ground mustard. A hilarious misadventure with dog food (“I probably would have eaten the whole can,” he admits) somehow dictates a tempting recipe for Italian Polpette and pillowy, gnocchi-like dumplings called Gnudi. An affinity for wine encourages the more daring Asparagus Risotto with Filet Mignon, while an international flair fuels the ingredients for Spanish Paella Valenciana. Camp’s time in Poland is reflected in a slow-cooked recipe for Bigos Stew. Busy home chefs with a family and a sweet tooth should particularly appreciate the ease of Camp’s Banoffee Pie, Scottish Shortbread, Gingersnap, and classic Chocolate Chip cookie recipes. A closing section featuring mixed drinks coupled with even livelier stories peaks with a standout concoction for Camp’s grandfather’s Top-Secret Manhattan, a pitcher of which the elder drank almost every evening. The design of this creatively inspired book seems geared for easy reading with beige background sections offering life stories alongside vivid food photographs contributed by Kucharek, the author’s wife. Some tales have a tendency to meander—for which Camp provides an early disclaimer—but generally, the colorful reminiscences provide a fitting preamble to the useful book’s many hearty, easy-to-follow recipes as well as a vicarious glimpse into a tour of duty. As an added incentive, Camp is donating $1 from each book sale to the charity Paws for Purple Hearts, a program offering canine-assisted therapy to veterans and active-duty military personnel who suffer physical and mental traumatic disorders: “I hope readers will see how soldiers celebrate life, and in turn, through the proceeds from this book, support our veterans who truly need the assistance.”

An enlightening, entertaining, and surprisingly moving hybrid of anecdotal military memoir and cookbook.