Book Review: On a Stick!

by Amber on July 7, 2011

Want to turn up the volume on your summer entertaining? Renowned food photographer and food blogger Matt Armendariz has a brilliant idea for you: put your food On a Stick!

In his new cookbook, Armendariz offers his own state fair-inspired food in a book full of fun recipes that are sure to make you the hostess with the most-ess. After all, why serve plain old spaghetti and meatballs when you could kick it up a notch and serve them, you guessed it, On a Stick!

If you like to have fun with your food, then this book is for you. It is about the pure joy of eating. As Armendariz writes of his Spam and Pineapple Skewers recipe, “If you’re the type who has an aversion to Spam, then please close this book and visit a park or fly a kite. This recipe is not for you.”

If you don’t want to play with your food, then this book is probably not for you. Stuffy suits and white linen have no place here—although, frankly, the recipes are good enough to please the most demanding palate. Recipes like Ground Shrimp on Sugarcane leap with creativity from the page. This particular dish calls for a lemongrass and ginger infused shrimp patty grilled on a skewer made of sugarcane. Just try to stop yourself from licking your fingers!

Originality doesn’t stop there. Red and White Sangria Pops take the traditional Spanish cocktail and freeze them, on Popsicle sticks, with chunks of fresh fruit. Classic street foods from around the globe are given fresh life with the stab of a stick and the click of Armendariz’s camera. Chicken Satay, Elote (Mexican-inspired grilled corn slathered in mayo and chili powder), Savory Tofu Dango (Japanese dumplings), and the Latin American specialty, Fresh Mango and Chili Powder all breathe new life with Armendariz’s interpretation.

Elote, a grilled corn recipe, from On a Stick!

The book features American standards as well. Corn Dogs, Cake Pops, Caramel Apples, and Deep-Fried Candy Bars all make their way into this whimsical look at all things stick-worthy.

The recipes range from super simple like Caprese Sticks (tomato , basil, and mozzarella on skewers) to very manageable (according to the official and scientific Awake at the Whisk Standards of Ease recipe index) like the Molotes, which require a quickly blended homemade dipping salsa, boiling some potatoes, sautéing chorizo, making an easy masa, combining and frying. Every home cook should be able to deftly assemble these recipes.

Armendariz provides a well-rounded array of fried, grilled, fresh and frozen recipes, as well as meat-based or meat-free fare. Everyone will find something they like contained in these happy pages.

The photography in this book alone (styled by the talented Adam Pearson and shot by Armendariz) will entice your taste buds. Chocolate-Tipped Peppermint Sticks cry out for a lick in their brightly colored image that sings in pinks and merry twists of blue and yellow stripes with multicolored green and orange sprinkles. Coconut Shrimp curve invitingly around a wooden skewer drizzled lovingly in perky yellow mango salsa. Fish and Chips stretch for the heavens from which they came, bursting through rolled newspaper and glittered under salt crystals. Each and every recipe is accompanied by a full-color, eye-pleasing photograph.

Chocolate-Tipped Peppermint Sticks from On a Stick by Matt Armendariz

Armendariz is equal parts great cook, photographer and writer. In the book’s introduction, he describes his experiment with foods on sticks as “thinking off the plate.” The joyful recipe head notes pull the tone of the work together with lighthearted jokes and unabated enthusiasm that feel as if the author is speaking directly to you.

“The goal is to enjoy it,” writes Armendariz of his horseradish dipping sauce, “not to melt your face off.”

And enjoy it you will! On a Stick! is a delightful food find that’s sure to boost your summer fun.


Proviso: I had the great joy of traveling to Food Blog Camp in Mexico with Adam Pearson and Matt Armendariz this past January. They are wonderful, warm, and authentic guys, who graciously shared their talents with us at camp. I hope this little review can help spread the love for On a Stick!


On a Stick!: 80 Party-Perfect Recipes
by Matt Armendariz
Quirk Books, 2011, $16.95, 184 pages


Reviews of On a Stick! abound on the Internet. This book is popular! Here are a few others:

What’s Gaby Cooking review:

Dine & Dish review:

LA Times:

Kitchn review:

Kitchen Conundrum:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ericka July 7, 2011 at 10:16 am

I absolutely LOVE Matt Armendariz, his books, writing and humor. Thank you so much for the peek inside his book. On that note: You have a wonderful blog. Very well-rounded and put together. So much food information! So glad I found your blog. 😀


admin July 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

Hi Ericka, Thanks for visiting my site. I’m so glad you like it! I’m a big fan of Matt’s, too. I love his lighthearted writing style. It always makes me laugh–something we need more of in this world. I had a lot of fun reading On a Stick! I hope you come back and visit me again. :)


Rebecca July 8, 2011 at 7:32 am

Cute book, can’t wait to get my hands on this. Nice, thorough review. What’s more fun than food, especially meat, on a stick?


admin July 8, 2011 at 7:46 am

Rebecca, I’m so glad you liked the review. You really should try the shrimp “sausages” on a sugar cane skewer. Tasty!–and I’m lucky to have the lemongrass in my garden. Thanks for stopping by my blog for a visit! :)


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