BOUNTIFUL OHIO, subtitled “Good Food and Stories from where the Heartland Begins” by James Hope and Susan Failor, and published by Gabriel’s Horn in Bowling Green Ohio, (1993) is the kind of book you will read again and again, with heartland recipes to refer to time and time again.
I hardly know where to begin—this book is so jam-packed with information and recipes.
Mr. Hope is rightfully Professor Hope; he taught at a university in rural Ohio. A native New Englander, James Hope set out, one summer, along with professional home economist Susan Failor, to “discover” Ohio.
Cincinnati, Ohio, is my birthplace; I was a native buckeye up to the age of twenty-one when my husband, baby, and I set out to drive across country to California. But Ohioans never forget their roots and I have spent many summers, with my children, visiting relatives and friends in Cincinnati suburbs.
During those summer vacations, we made numerous trips to the famous chili parlors for platters piled high with Cincinnati chili, a concoction like none you have ever eaten. (A Four Way consists of spaghetti, topped with Cincinnati chili, chopped onions and grated cheese, topped off with oyster crackers. The best place to go to is Camp Washington Chili Parlor).
We ate wonderful German sausages with sauerkraut, farm-fresh sliced tomatoes and sipped Ohio’s famous Meier’s wine….so imagine my delight, discovering BOUNTIFUL OHIO—An entire cookbook devoted not only to recipes and foods cherished by Buckeyes, but filled, also, with the foodlore of Ohio.
I always knew that Cincinnati was famous as a meat-packing town, most notably Kahn’s, just as I always knew that Proctor and Gamble’s first company was located in Cincinnati. What I didn’t know is that P&G owed its origins to the meat-packing industry, too, that candle maker William Proctor and soap maker James Gamble married sisters and combined forces to form one of the most successful American business enterprises ever. This business owed its foundation to the fats and scraps collected from meat-packing plants.
Comment the publishers, “The recipes in this book range from cheesy cornbread to Sara’s Amish dressing and from Firelands Braised Beef Noir to Di’s Ohio sour Cherry Pie (winner of the best pie in America). They are the wholesome flavors of good food from home in Ohio”.
I also discovered an apple maple chutney recipe that I can’t wait to try, and along with an authentic recipe for Johnny Marzetti, the story behind its origins. If you have very many regional cookbooks in your collection, you most likely have an assortment of Johnny Marzetti recipes, with Marzetti spelled many different ways. Here, then, is the true story behind Johnny Marzetti.
While not a community cookbook, BOUNTIFUL OHIO is definitely a regional cookbook, a book you will thoroughly enjoy and treasure for many years to come, whether or not you are from Ohio–or neighboring Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia or Pennsylvania. While numerous books have been published, extolling the virtues of Midwestern cooking, few have delved so deeply to explain why it is so good.
In the Preface, James Hope and Susan Failor write “You don’t have to travel far to go a long way in Ohio: the state is so diverse—geographically, economically, ethnically—but the scene outside your window changes constantly. Sometimes that makes it hard for Ohioans to figure out just who they are—but it intrigues and delights the authors of this book, and is one of the reasons we decided to write it…”
The authors say they’re glad they did. Being interested in food, they ate their way from border to border and found a lot of it, in a variety ranging from five star virtuosity (The Maisonette in Cincinnati that held that rare ranking for decades, closed its doors in 2005).
The authors say that Ohio is one where farm and cookie factory literally exist side by side. Ohio is smaller in land area than 33 other states, so it packs a surprising amount of agriculture and industry into a small space.
“Midwesterners that they are,” write Hope and Failor, “Ohioans don’t toot their own horns much. But Ohio ranks among the nation’s top ten or twelve states in corn, soybeans, wheat, fresh vegetables, dairy products, chickens, egg, hogs and vegetables for processing. It does more than grow food, too; it also processes vast amounts of ketchup, pickles, soup, ice cream, Swiss cheese, cereal and many other things. Most people don’t realize what an efficient little cornucopia this state is…”
The authors owe the success of BOUNTIFUL OHIO to all the people listed at the end of the book—farmers, grocers, chefs, food processors, homemakers, extension agents, professional government officials and dozens of other Ohioans who helped them write this book.
Chapter One is titled “IN SEARCH OF BOUNTIFUL” and Professor Hope explains that he took to the road in mid-August, a few days after teaching his last class of summer session at a university in rural Ohio and was now free for a year, on leave to do research of the kind that is supposed to add to the world’s body of knowledge. He would do that, but had something else in mind, too.
He says that like William Least Heat-Moon in BLUE HIGHWAYS and Ishmael in MOBY DICK, Hope was in search of something. While those writers were trying to fill gaps in their souls, he was hoping to fill a different kind of vacancy—he was looking for good things to eat.
(Many books have been written in the past three or four decades about finding good food to eat throughout the USA—I know because I have collected a lot of those books–but this was the early 1990s and a lot of those books hadn’t been written yet).
Professor Hope confessed that after years of gulping quick lunches between classes, he was hungry and intended to eat leisurely and well—but there was a deeper purpose to this as well. He had a theory (as professors often do) that food, and the search for it, would help him come to know Ohio, perhaps become even more of an Ohioan.
Culture, he writes, is all the things a people value—it is how they establish their identity, their sense of who they are, their uniqueness. Culture, he says, is art, music and literature but it is also film, furniture, car ornaments, roller coasters and merry go rounds. And, says Professor Hope, it is food. Especially food: our foods are among the common statements of who we are; we create and consume them all day long. (I would have said it’s also our cookbooks. In the mid 1960s when I first began collecting cookbooks, I started with a church cookbook my father bought from a co-worker at Formica. Dad bought several copies of this Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook, for my sisters and my mother and me. I cherished that cookbook and began to wonder if there were of it “out there.” I have learned a great deal over the years about places from the cookbooks published by churches and clubs).
Professor Hope says that getting to know this place and its culture—to become part of it—was important to him. He had lived in Ohio for more than a decade and a half, but still felt like a New Englander, someone from away. “I couldn’t blame the Ohioans,” he writes, “they seemed friendlier than the taciturn Yankees with whom I was raised. The problem was this: I had never really taken the time to get to know the place, and Ohio seemed more like an address than a home.” (This is something I can relate to—when we first came to California in 1961, I didn’t feel like a Californian. We returned to Ohio in 1963 for the birth of our second son, Steve, – but before the year was over, I knew we had to return to California. Ohio was no longer my home. I had somehow become a Californian).
But, back to James Hope and BOUNTIFUL OHIO – in which he says that New Englanders know exactly who they are and they have the sights, the sounds, the ancestors and the flavors to prove it to you, whether you ask them or not. They claim a sense of place as birth right and have all the materials for it. Professor Hope says he grew up surrounded by mountains and Indian trails, Revolutionary War battlefields, home ports for clipper ships and brooding houses with small-paned windows that concealed secrets.
Further on he writes how, in the sixth decade of his life, he knew where he had been; he did not know where he was now and meant to do something about it.
There is a great deal more to the Preface to BOUNTIFUL OHIO but I would be remiss to write too much of it and take away from you the experience of seeing my home state of Ohio from another’s eyes. (I have been seeing Ohio through my birthright eyes and then, later on, I began seeing Ohio in a different light—becoming more appreciative as I got older and would visit places with one of my brothers or one of my nephews. With my brother Bill over the span of several years – we visited Hale Farm and Cuyahoga National Park, as well as Stan Hywet mansion in Akron, Ohio. This is a 65 room Tudor style mansion built in 1912 by Goodyear Rubber company founder F.A. Seiberling and his wife. It was touring the house and gardens that made me realize how much I love old houses. Curiously, the house is not named after a person, as commonly believed, and it took 4 years to build at a cost of $150,000.
You can spend a lot of time reading BOUNTIFUL OHIO—it’s the kind of book to read a little at a time, relishing all the history—and the recipes!
BOUNTIFUL OHIO can be purchased on Amazon.com at one cent and up for a pre owned copy. Mine is a softcover (oversized) cookbook. A great addition to collectors of regional material.
Alibris.com has pre-owned copies of BOUNTIFUL OHIO starting at 99c.
A great regional cookbook to add to your collection!
Review by Sandra Lee Smith