Category Archives: COOKBOOK REVIEWS

THE ROUTE 66 COOKBOOK

THE ROUTE 66 COOKBOOK by Marian Clark and Michael Wallis;

The first time my then-husband and one year old son drove across country, from Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California, most of the trip was via Route 66. If I remember correctly, we picked up route 66 in St. Louis.
We made the trip in a little over three days, driving long and hard hours. It was October, 1961, and we listened to the World Series as we drove along. Our belongings were piled into the back seat and trunk , and we had a baby bed and ironing board tied to the roof of the car (shades of Grapes of Wrath).

The baby’s mattress had been laid across the piles of clothing in the back, so he could crawl around on the mattress (mind you, this was long before car seats became mandatory much less SAFE enclosures in which children could ride). Michael’s car seat was a little cloth contraption supported by some kind of aluminum tube on which a plastic steering where was attached.

The reason for this autumn trip across country was that Jim’s best friend had moved to Los Angeles and would call on weekends to tell us about the land of milk and honey and the streets that were paved with gold. Maybe not quite – but Jim had been laid off at the factory where he worked and I quit my job downtown. It was never intended to be permanent—and it wasn’t.

I know we visited some interesting restaurants along the way, but confess to having little memory of them, except for one place where we were served huge steaks. I vaguely recall warnings about speed traps in New Mexico, climbing into the mountains of Arizona, traveling through Oatmeal, Arizona, stopping in Needles, before we began the trek across the Mojave Desert into the southern California and in particular, our astonishment as we descended from the high desert into the southern California basin, over the thick white and noxious smelling haze that lay across the land.

“This must be the smog everyone talks about,” my husband joked. Unfortunately, it really WAS.

I feel as though I missed a great deal along route 65—considering we were moving across country, and not on a vacation trip…so it was with a great deal of pleasure that I discovered The Route 66 Cookbook by Marian Clark, published by Council Oak Books in 1993. This soft cover cookbook, replete with photos, originally sold for $17.95.
Ms. Clark is a native of Hereford, Texas, in Deaf Smith County. As a child, she traveled many times on The Mother Road”.

“From Chicago to L.A.,” state the publishers, “these are the stories of Route 66’s best loved eateries, along with favorite recipes. Here is the food that brought fame to hometown diners, hotel dining rooms, cafes and upscale restaurants, all along the Mother Road. Through memorabilia, anecdotes and recipes, these eating establishments come to life page after page…”

In the Preface, Ms. Clark explains, “A book like this did not fall into places from front to back, but was fitted together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Some of the pieces were easy to find, others requires a careful search. A few are still missing…”

The author says that in her search, she found regional specialties, ethnic foods and down-home Americana. She says she also found a story at every stop, a living chronology of people who made their American Dream come true. She writes that the purpose of her cookbook was not to find every pieces of the puzzle, but to capture some memories, to whet the appetite, and to save some history that might otherwise be forgotten.

Interestingly, Ms. Clark states that for travelers, food is a course of comfort, a revelation of new experiences and a mirror of the lifestyle in each succeeding community. A simple bowl of chili, she says, takes on entirely different characteristics along the 2400 mile span of the highway.

This cookbook was a mammoth undertaking, for in order to write it, the author, with husband and traveling companion/photographer Donna Lea, actually made the trip. They were encouraged and supported not only by people they met in diners, cafes and restaurants and hotels along Route 66 but also by librarians, museum employees and Chamber of Commerce members in communities all along Route 66.

The Route 66 cookbook begins, then, with recipes from eateries in Chicago…and takes you through seven states, counting Illinois at the one end and California at the other.

It ends with Belle Vue French Restaurant in Santa Monica, which closed down in 1991, but is worthy of mentioning for as the author writes, “The closing of the Belle Vue is reminiscent of the passing of an epoch in the life of America’s great lost highway. Changes occur but memories remain. Historic Route 66 can never be captured and held to one time. it remains a symbol of movement, adventure and exhilaration, an icon of a more innocent time when a shining coast-to-coast highway first beckoned to intrepid travelers…it remains a living, breathing monument to the people who live along its many miles and to everyone who ever sat behind the wheel—or in the back seat—and watched the wonderful signs roll by long the Mother Road.

This is a cookbook packed with recipes and memories, a kind of time capsule of an era in danger of being forgotten. It’s a great “read” and the recipes are worthy.
There are a number of different editions available on Amazon.com. You can buy a pre-owned copy for as little as one cent ($3.99 shipping)—one of the more interesting copies I found on Amazon is the 75th Anniversary edition, published 10/1/2000 – you can buy this one for $ 3.74 (pre owned).

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

FALSE TONGUES & SUNDAY BREAD

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is a tantalizing cookbook that captivated me, not only with the title—but also from the subtitle “A Guatemalan and Mayan Cookbook.” It wasn’t so very long ago that I reviewed a cookbook for you titled “FOODS OF THE MAYA/ A TASTE OF THE YUCATAN” by Nancy & Jeffrey Gerlach.

I have never had a desire to visit any of the countries in South America—but “FOODS OF THE MAYA” piqued my curiosity. Copeland Marks, I learned, is co-author of THE INDONESIAN KITCHEN and often contributed to Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Food and Wine—all of which has me wondering how a New Yorker has produced such a tantalizing title as, FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BFEAD.

My curiosity increased in Marks’ introduction in which he writes, “several years ago I approached a number of people in Guatemala City and told them I wanted to write a book on the cuisine of Guatemala. My comment was received with utter disbelief that there was a cuisine at all; people claimed that the highland Indians ate only beans, tortillas and tamales, and that if there was any semblance of a cooking style it occurred only in the large cities…”
Marks says he collected the textiles of the Maya for twenty years, moving from one village to another where the great tribal textile tradition was still extant. He says he had been impressed by the variety of foods in the daily markets as well as the selection of spices and seasonings available. He knew, he says, there had to be a cuisine. despite fact that none of the restaurants serving tourists were presenting the authentic foods and that there was no real bibliography of cookbooks in English one could study. So Marks returned to the village weavers known to him, all of them women, and proceeded to talk about food and recorded the daily and ceremonial recipes based upon his observation and actual cooking activities with them.
Marks says it wasn’t all that easy—at one point he was bitten by a mad dog in the village of San Juan Sacatepequez and had to undergo 16 injections into his stomach—and there were many other Sacatepequez experiences—during which he asked himself if there wasn’t an easier way to find and write about a cuisine. However, he writes, after a guerilla experience, the veil lifted and Marks was able to collect considerable evidence that the cuisine of Guatemaya Maya is in reality two separate cuisines, –one of the highland Indian with their pre-Hispanic style and the other of the Spanish Colonial era which had been developed by the new race, the Ladinos, who were a mixture of the old and the new. brought about independently of the two other cuisines, a minor satellite that had developed independently in the town of Livingston in Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. It was here that indentured labor from India and Africa was brought in by the British to work in the sugarcane and forests of British Honduras, (now known as Belize). These people developed a vivid style of cooking that was tropical, based on seafood, bananas and coconut milk.

Nowhere will you find more creatively named recipes than those you will find in False Tongues and Sunday Bread! Starting with False Tongues, which is a ground beef loaf, otherwise known as Lengua Fingida.

In the Foreword, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz writes “Copeland Marks has made a meticulous study of a little-known culinary regions of the Americas—the once-great Mayan empire that stretched from the mother city of “Tikal in Guacamole , north into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through the modern state of Campeche to Palenque in Chiapas and south to Copan in Honduras, glory had begun to fade by the time of the Spanish Conquest in the sixteenth century. Surprisingly, much has survived the centuries, including the magnificent weavings and the food…the cuisines are, of course, dominated by the indigenous foods. Most of them, like tomatoes, corn, the common bean, chiles and sweet peppers were first cultivated in Mexico, where it is believed agriculture was born millennia ago. These still form the basis of the kitchen, though nowadays with the foods introduced by the Conquest and by the spread of modern trade, all the foods of the world are available. The Guatemalan kitchen of today reflects this and it has also been modified by modern cooking methods and kitchen tools such as the blender and food processor…”

Recipes throughout False Tongues and Sunday Bread reflect the combining of old and new and you will surely reflect all of these and a great deal more. Read and enjoy.

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is available on Amazon.com; prices mostly steep but there is one in pre-owned copies for $14.91.

REVIEW BY SANDRA LEE SMITH

A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD

The title to the Junior League of Jacksonville, Florida’s cookbook A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is based on a little known fact—that the hometown river of the St. John’s River is one of only two rivers flowing north in this hemisphere.
.
(And, in case you are wondering—as I was—how or why those two rivers run backward, I learned from Google that “Unless the land is totally flat, rivers of water run downhill. The vast percentage of rivers on the planet flow in a southerly direction because the source (usually in the mountains) is to the north of the mouth. If the source of a river is at a higher elevation than the mouth, that river will run from the source to the mouth. However, if that (higher) source is to the south of the mouth, that river will then flow to the north (downhill).
**
And actually—if you start digging deeper—you will find there are numerous other examples of rivers in the USA flowing north instead of south. I found the following on Google:

“How can a river flow north?” the real estate lady asked me. ‘I mean, it’s impossible. The offending river, within whose watershed I proposed to buy a house, is the Wallkill. It rises in Northern New Jersey – near Sparta – and passes by Middletown, NY, and through Montgomery, Walden, the eponymous town of Wallkill, New Paltz, Rosendale, and finally (with a complication) drains into the Hudson River at Kingston, NY – approximately 100 miles north of its source….” (There is a lot more but I’ll leave those up to you to find out for yourselves…sls)

You are invited to tour the hometown river and beach communities of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida in the Junior League’s collection of regional recipes, area history and family memories.

I was especially captivated by the reproduction of many old-time photographs, especially one of the old St. John’s Lighthouse, the oldest building in Mayport, built in 1858, and learned that two earlier lighthouses were abandoned and removed due to “their perilous proximity to the ocean.” There are a number of other equally interesting illustrations, some of which appear to have possibly been reproduced from old post cards. Many have been provided by the Jacksonville Historical Society Archives.

Published by those creative people at the Wimmer Company, “A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD” is beautifully composed and printed—and easy to read (a must for me nowadays—if I can’t easily read the print in a cookbook, I won’t buy it.)

And, A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is packed with a delectable collection of recipes; whether you fancy Madeline Maude’s Molasses Cookies (try saying that one five times real fast) or Nutmeg Ice Box cookies, Cinnamon Honey Squares, or Caramel Oat and Chocolate Bars (the nutmeg ice box cookies sounds like a good cookie recipe to add to your Christmas cookie baking list)—other sweet treats that sound enticing include a chocolate flan and a holiday sorbet made with fresh or frozen cranberries.

I tried Nancy’s Veggie relish and can personally vouch for it—plus, it’s easy to put together and lasts a long time in the frig—I was first introduced to this particular recipe by a girlfriend in Covina, California, who had relatives in the south – in Georgia and Florida. This recipe is well worth your time; keep it on hand as a standby relish or side dish.

I’m looking forward to trying Bourbon–Laced Sweet Potato Puree—I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect mashed sweet potato casserole—only please don’t top it off with marshmallows! I’ll try Grated Sweet Potato Souffle as soon as possible too.

What else sounds good to me? Asparagus with warm tomato Vinaigrette—I think it could be served as a salad or a side dish. The Glazed Red Cabbage which contains raspberry jam sounds delish to me too.

Also in the side dish category are several mouth watering Vidalia Onion recipes (if you are as partial to Vidalia Onions as I am!)

I have marked with post-its recipes for Chocolate Truffle Cake and Bunny’s Carrot Cake (I can’t wait to make this—finally!! A carrot cake that doesn’t contain two cups of cooking oil!) – and for next Christmas, I will be making MereMom’s Favorite Fruitcake—this recipe contains pecans, dates, candied cherries, candied pineapple—and no other candied fruit. I also found a recipe for Nutmeg Ice Box Cookies that is not in my ice box cookie collection.

Look for a great sounding Tortilla Soup recipe and something called Dragon’s Breath (also a soup!); Chutney Chicken salad and Pensacola Pasta Salad—the latter would make, I think, a fine addition to a holiday buffet.

Another fine feature of THE RIVER RUNS BACKWARDS is a
section of suggested party menus (the recipes, of course, can be found in the book).

Another little section is devoted to local restaurants with some of their specialty recipes; be sure to check out the steak marinade from the Beech Street Grill!

The Junior League of Jacksonville was formed in 1923 ; its charitable purpose has remained constant while its specific undertakings have met the challenges of each generation. At the time A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD was published in 1995, volunteers of the Junior League have focused on children’s issues, teen pregnancy and literacy. One project, the Family Visitation Center, developed in conjunction with the HRs and the Children’s Home Society, provides a homelike atmosphere for parents and other relatives to have supervised visits with their children in foster care. With each endeavor.

The League strives to encourage and celebrate a healthy community. The Junior League of Jacksonville was proud to present their unique and delicious collection of recipes to share with all those who enjoy a passion for cooking, tempting aromas, and memorable parties. They urge us to allow their river of recipes to flow back towards us.
Along with the many recipes, presented in a hidden spiral binding, there are reproductions of old black and white photographs including a copy of an 1858 Mayport Lighthouse and Keeperes residence from a 1900 photograph shared by the Beaches Area Historical Society Archives.

A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is available on Amazon.com; you can order a new copy for $11.66 or a pre-owned copy starting at $1.01.

And, If you are interested, the Junior League of Jacksonville published an earlier cookbook in 1982, titled Jacksonville & Company. I think the price of a new copy (starting at $ 51.69) is another example of overpricing, but pre-owned copies start at $5.50 or a collectible copy is listed at $8.77. Jacksonville & Company was priced at $12.00 when published in 1982. This cookbook is also a fine example of well-thought out publishing; it was printed by a company in Memphis that I am not familiar with—but it’s a nice thick cookbook!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

A TASTE FOR ALL SEASONS/Unique Dessert Recipes

“A TASTE FOR ALL SEASONS”, subtitled “Unique Dessert Recipes” really is unique. It is a thick spiral bound cookbook, entirely devoted to desserts – because, the authors explain, “Eat Dessert First Because Life is so Uncertain”

Isn’t that the truth? I remember one time that my sister Becky and I were in Florida visiting our mother who by then was pretty mind-muddled from Alzheimer’s; we were in a restaurant that had a buffet style menu—you could pretty much eat whatever you wanted. Our mother had in front of her a piece of pie and began eating it first. Becky asked, “Mom, why are you eating dessert first?” and mom, looking cagily at us, replied, “That’s so no one can take it away from me.” (that was an early indication that she wasn’t getting enough to eat—but that is another story for another time).

“A Taste for all Seasons” was published to honor all the thousands of children who bravely face illness every year. It was especially dedicated to Jenny Jacobs, “whose courage in the face of such adversity has given me the inspiration to put this cookbook together” writes the author, adding, “The money collected from the sale of each book will be donated to a worthy children’s charity”

I have no idea how many recipes are in this cookbook (I think there are over 350) – but there’s quite a lot—a lot of cookie recipes, dozens of cakes and pies, lots of traditional desserts such as the trifle illustrating the front of the cookbook, but muffins and breads and a lot of other sweet treats as well. This could easily become your #1 “go to” cookbooks when you need a dessert recipe—more than three dozen listed in the index on each page—lots of bar cookies, such as Carrot & Zucchini Bars, Chocolate Caramel Nut bars, Chewy Chocolate Bars and Peanut Butter & Fudge Brownies. Other peanut butter cookie recipes include Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies, and the traditional Peanut Blossom cookies. (I keep a lot of peanut butter on hand—I stock up on it when it’s on sale—because it’s always a great snack with saltine crackers, or the primary ingredient in a sweet treat).

There are also a lot of recipes with chocolate in them—and who doesn’t love chocolate? From Chocolate Chip Cookies to Chocolate Revel Bars, there are Chocolate Maroon Squares and Fudge Cream Cheese Brownies, Chocolate filled Snowballs and Chocolate Cherry Bars.

Amongst the many recipes for cakes there are many of the traditional tried and true recipes such as Carrot Cake, pound cake, Orange Date Cake and Chocolate Cake Roll – but a lot of other ones I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before—Velvet Almond Fudge Cake, Waldorf Astoria Cake, Aunt Eva’s Texas Sheet Cake and Hawaiian Pineapple Cake, one called Heavenly Hash Cake (that sounds decadent!) and Real Hungarian Strudel—this is a wonderful surprise; most recipes for strudel today call for a package of Filo dough that is available in supermarket freezer cases.

The recipe in “A Taste for All Seasons” is strudel dough made from scratch, something I haven’t seen since my grandmother stopped making strudel in her kitchen, probably a year or two before she died. This recipe provides the ingredients for making cherry strudel—which we grew up on, along with apple strudel and a wonderful pumpkin strudel that I have never been able to duplicate or find a recipe that sounds like what we ate.

Then there are a plethora of recipes we really think of as “dessert” dishes – a Nectarine and Orange trifle, Tropical Trifle, Fruit Trifle, Black Forest Trifle—need I say more?

I wanted to share a recipe from A Taste for All Seasons with you – and have selected “Trifle” – to make a Trifle you will need:

2 or 3 lb pound cakes sliced, frozen, ¼” thick
32 oz apricot preserves
1 large and 1 small Cool Whip
1 package (4 containers) Swiss Miss vanilla pudding
1 ½ to 2 quarts fresh strawberries, sliced
4 to 6 bananas, slices

Arrange in layers in glass trifle dish or a large brandy snifter:

Layer following:
Cake, apricot preserves, strawberries, bananas, ½ cool whip
Repeat twice topping with remaining cool whip. Decorate with whole strawberries Chill.

The main reason I chose this trifle recipe is because I discovered some years ago that you can use leftover cake or cookies, almost any kind of preserves—I would use up small amounts of different preserves to finish them off including strawberry preserves. When you have reached the top of the dessert dish, cover it with plastic wrap and chill in the frig at least a few hours or even overnight.
(if only adults will be eating your trifle, you can also splash the pound cake or whatever cake you are using with a little Triple Sec or any other liqueur you may have on hand.

I made the best trifle of my life using up leftover cookies and cake after one of our Christmas parties, and then served it on New Year’s day. If you prefer, you can make vanilla pudding from scratch or make it with a box of instant pudding. There are a lot of ways to put a trifle together using up what you have on hand. It will look very pretty and everyone will love it. – sls

It took a lot of searching on Amazon.com to find at least one copy listed and that was on the 3rd page of titles – many different books with the same, or almost the same, title. You need to look for “A Taste for all Seasons, Unique Dessert Recipes” by Phyllis Diamond. The one I found on Amazon is listed at $15.00. This is a great book to have in a cookbook collection.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM

Christmas on the Farm, edited by Lela Nargi, is a collection of favorite recipes, stories, gift ideas and decorating tips from The Farmer’s Wife. First published in 2011 by Voyageur Press, it is a beautiful hardbound book to add to your favorite Christmas collection.

In the Introduction, Lela Nargi writes “The Farmer’s Wife (which is enjoying a resurgence of popularity for the past few years—Nargi has been publishing a number of “Farmer’s Wife” cookbooks, all available to check over on Amazon.com)– was originally a monthly magazine published in Minnesota between the years 1893 and 1939. In an era long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, the magazine aimed to offer community among hard-working rural women, to provide a forum for their questions and concerns, and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm—everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs, to managing scant funds and dressing the children, to keeping house and running the kitchen.”

“Christmas was the be-all, end-all celebration on the farm—more than Easter, New Year’s or even Thanksgiving,” she writes. “This quintessential holiday of giving and togetherness gave rise to pages and pages on the topic in every December issue of the magazine. And these pages weren’t just about food—although recipes for all the various components of dinners and parties and holiday gift baskets certainly abounded. The magazine’s experts expounded on the best and latest ways to decorate home, tree, and parcels. Its monthly columnists devoted themselves to the matters of home-made gifts for family and friends, and games to be played to festively capture the spirit of the season. Its readers wrote in with tales of Christmases in other lands, in times gone by. Its editors rhapsodized in and out of two wars, on the value of peace and compassion.”

“In short,” Lela explains, “The Farmer’s Wife” presented its own opinion—both grand and humble, broad and minute, and always, always bearing in mind the idea of community among its readers—about the ways in which Christmas should be celebrated…”

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM presents, with nostalgia, a way of life that has to a certain degree disappeared from the American landscape and lifestyle. The book starts off with the Christmas, 1920 issue of the magazine (you’d have to be a mentally alert ninety-three year old citizen to remember that decade);

Lela writes, “To those who live in the land of snow and Christmas trees, the twenty-fifth of December blends all its associations with the gleam of snow on hills and fields and woods, the fragrance of fir and pine, the leaping light of Christmas hearthfires. But Christmas is a world-wide day and the environment determined by climate is but an external.

They tell us, too, that ‘Christmas on the Farm’ is the only ideal Christmas. The Farmer’s Wife carries its Christmas message into all zones, from Florida, to the frozen North and from its own home in the corn belt to the edges of the continent where the oceans roar out their accompaniment to the carols of the good, glad day. It is a message of love, and faith and cheer as befits a Christmas message of love, because love is always the winner of faith, because without that staunch quality, nothing would ever be accomplished, of cheer, because when we have love and faith, the flame of cheer follows as a  matter of course—as light follows the burning torch….”

I may have been born in the wrong period of time—as I read and typed the above, it crosses my mind that this message would be “politically incorrect” in the world we live in today. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” – you have to say “Happy Holidays”—and let me say that I say MERRY CHRISTMAS at every opportunity in December. But I digress.

Curiously, in 2010, I wrote a series of poems for a poetry group I belonged to, under the umbrella heading of “An American Childhood” and I will share one of these poems with you. Mine were written before CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM was published, so I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes.

Christmas Dinner in 1929 presented its readers with an illustration of the proper way to set your table and follows with an assortment of beverages to serve your guests—from Fruit Punch taken from the January 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife to a Cranberry Cocktail from the 1934 issue and including a November 1937 recipe for Cranberry Gingerale Cocktail. To go along with the drinks are an assortment of hors d’oeuvres starting with Candied Nuts from the January, 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife but includes recipes for a relish plate (November, 1934) to a Cheese and Cracker Tray (also from the November, 1934 issue (in recognition, perhaps, for readers who might not know where to begin with cheese and crackers or preparing a relish plate) but offers as well a recipe for Cheese Puffs ((July, 1922) or pinwheel cheese biscuits (October 1926)—or, to my amusement, a 1919 Pigs in Blankets recipe…a recipe that is updated and still around 94 years later (think: Pillsbury crescent rolls and hot dogs cut into smaller sizes to fit the dough)—it makes me wonder if the Pillsbury Crescent rolls with hot dogs was a Bake-Off recipe way back when! There are also several recipes for oyster hors d’oeuvres which at one time were enormously popular—not so much today.

What follows next is a selection titled Table Talk, which presents inexpensive recipes for Yuletide Dishes; Main Courses featuring roast goose roast duck and turkey recipes, an impressive chart of all the correct dishes to serve with your selection of a holiday bird makes it easy for the cook to plan the entire meal easily. There are recipes for baked spiced ham, crown roast of lamb—even a curried rabbit (not my favorite meat but certainly had to be a familiar sight on the farmland table, especially during hard times. Under a chapter titled Smorgasbord, taken from the December, 1937 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, is a recipe for meat balls for your smorgasbord, followed by many still great side dishes, from a French Dressing for salad (October, 1911 issue of the Farmer’s Wife)—over a hundred years ago—as well as a Sweet Cream dressing for salad published in 1934, and red dressing for head (Iceberg) lettuce from November, 1924—but all of the salad recipes would be doable today, most for a fraction of the cost, considering that most of the recipes in Christmas on the Farm cover decades of the Great Depression plus two world wars. –the exception might be a recipe for Lobster salad—but it might interest you to know that lobster and other shell fish were affordable throughout World War II. And these were items that were not rationed during the war. And, most of the vegetable and salad recipes were made up of items grown on the farm—Glazed Carrots from the January 1931 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, Creamed Spinach from the May, 1911 issue. These are just a sampling of the recipes found in Christmas on the Farm.

The Desserts found in Christmas on the Farm are mostly simple, inexpensive such as January, 1910’s Lemon Floating Island or November, 1926’s Chocolate Blanc Mange I, a Prune Souffle fro October, 1923 or a Prune and Raisin Pudding from November, 1926, Apricot Whip from February, 1919 or a January 1911 Cranberry Pudding. Still under Desserts is an interesting story  from 1937 titled “She Sells Fruitcake”, a story that began fifteen years earlier with a  young housewife who built a career empire making and selling fruitcakes. There are recipes for fruitcakes and its cousin the Steamed Pudding plus an Eggless Fruit Cake that was made up mostly of spices, raisins and coconut—certainly a welcomed recipe in January of 1913. You’ll also enjoy reading “A Farm Woman’s Christmas Cakes” which appeared in the December, 1925 issue of the Farmer’s Wife.  There are also recipes for candy and cookies, too—candy recipes that are still popular today—toffee and fudge, creamed walnuts and maple pralines from December, 1916—plus many more.

For the farmer’s wife with little cash resources, there are oodles of directions for gifts she could make—even directions for building “Dolly a House” that was published in December, 1921. There are also directions for making many other gifts, however.

By the way, you will love the 20s,-30s,40s illustrations throughout the book. It’s really like stepping back in time with CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM.  Who among all of us would have kept the monthly magazines published throughout those decades? (Apparently, someone did!)

Christmas on the Farm is a beautiful holiday book with a most attractive red cover and is sure to please anyone who buys a copy.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from my penpal, Betsy, in Michigan—but I checked with Amazon.com; they have several paperback copies starting at $11.98 but listing a new PB copy for $15.27.   Alibris.com has copies starting at $11.98.  If you can get one of the hardbound copies, go for it – it will hold up to years of thumbing through to find your favorite recipes or new ones for you to try.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these recipes this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, 2013!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

As promised, the following is one of my 2010 poems from a collection I called “An American Childhood”.

WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE

By Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

Come winter on the prairie and as far as you can see,

Snow makes a great white blanket across the endless prairie sea,

Pa gets the big sleigh from the barn and greases up the blades,

To make the pulling easier for the horses, on the grades.

 

Mama takes out the oldest blankets, that help to keep us warm,

Pa checks the sleigh most carefully, to keep us all from harm.

Then snug in mittens, scarves and coats that mama made from wool,

Pa takes us every morning to our little country school.

He stays a while to help our teacher fill the old wood bin,

She thanks him with a curtsy, brings out the gentleman in him.

We students hang our coats and things in the cloak room at the back,

And teacher claps her hands and says, “Since Christmas’s coming that—

 

Today we’re going to decorate a tree that kind Mr. Mc Clune

Went up north to get for us and will bring it to us soon,

For now we’ll all make popcorn garlands and chains of colored paper,”

And from a box she lifts up a silver star—nothing had escaped her.

 

No reading, writin’, rithmetic, no studying today!

We’re going to decorate a tree and enjoy a day of play;

On Christmas Eve our families will come to see the tree,

And Santa will come and give us each a bag of candy, free!

 

“Tain’t no Santa,” One of the big boys in the back row shouted out,

The little girls in front began to shriek and cry and pout;

My younger sis is with the little girls that were in tears.

I knew I had to do something to take away their fears.

 

You take that back!” I said with fists clenched, ready for a fight,

When teacher intervened and said “Now, boys, this isn’t right. 

On Christmas we all celebrate the birth of Christ the King,

George, you say you’re sorry and we’ll all forget this thing.”

 

Then teacher told a story, while we cut and pasted rings,

As we made a garland for our tree, she told of many things,

Of the birth of one small baby, in a manger far away,

And how folks far away and near remember Him on this day.

 

She told about Saint Nicholas who filled the wooden shoes,

Of all the good Dutch boys and girls to remember this Good News,

She said how now, we all remember Jesus in this way,

And all of us remember Him on every Christmas Day.

 

The big boy, George, he was abashed, and said he didn’t mean it,

But he had no ma or pa and no Santa Claus would visit;

He lived with one old aunt who had no time for foolishness,

No time for trees or holly, for Santa Claus or Christmas.

 

On Christmas Eve our families came and crowded in the room,

We’d cleaned our desks, the blackboard, and candles chased off gloom,

Then Santa came and brought a sack, and we all lined up to get

A little bag of peppermints, a night we’d not forget.

 

When all the candy had been passed out, Santa stood upright

And asked, “I wonder if a boy named George is here tonight?”

George came forward and I noticed that his face had turned beet red;

As he said “I’m sorry, Santa, I really didn’t mean to be so bad.”

 

“Oh, I know that!” Santa laughed, “Why, I know what’s good and true,

There’s just one gift I have to give, and George this one’s for you!”

And from his burlap bag, he reached and handed George a box;

George opened it and all of us heard him gasp with shock;

 

Inside the box there was a very fine Swiss army knife;

George’s eyes lit up with wonder, “I’ve wanted one all my life,

But,” he said, “I never told this to a single living soul!

Santa patted him on his shoulder and said “Oh, George, I know!”

 

We all shed tears and teacher said “Let us sing a song of praise,

That we all remember this night all our living days.”

And so we sang, then hurried home in the cold night with elation,

Before we left, I heard my ma extend a special invitation.

 

George said he didn’t think his aunt ever would agree,

Ma said “I won’t take no for an answer; dinner is at three.”

And so next day, George and his aunt and our teacher came for dinner,

That all of us told mama was so fine and sure a winner.

 

In the parlor there were presents for sis and George and me,

Scarves and mittens ma had stitched and it was plain to see

That no one had done this much for George in all his sorry life,

“Scarves and mittens!” George exclaimed, “And a fine Swiss Army knife!”

 

We all sipped hot tea with cookies ma had baked, just for this day,

And our guests all carried home tins of cookies wrapped so gay,

Before we went to bed that night, I heard my mother whisper,

“You dear old Claus, I do believe, I’d like to kiss your whiskers!”

 

Years later, when my pa was old frail and could not see,

I ventured then to ask him what had long been bothering me,

How could you know,” I asked him, “About George and that army knife?”

Because,” he said, “I wanted one, most of my own life.”
George married my kid sister and they have a bunch of boys;

Their farm is off in Kansas and sis tells me it’s a joy,

For George just loves his rowdy bunch, for them he’d give his life,

And every one of those young boys owns a fine Swiss Army knife.

–Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

 

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

The first cookbook I want to bring to your attention is THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, which features the best single recipes from each year in Gourmet magazine, from 1941 to 2009. The book was published by Conde Nast Publications in 2010 and is offered by Amazon.com with a wide range of price variations – if I remember correctly, I might have bought my copy about a year ago and I didn’t pay very much for the book – and probably got free shipping as I go for free shipping whenever possible.

Gourmet magazine’s demise also was a factor—since we won’t be reading the magazine anymore, it seemed logical to me to read whatever books are published under Gourmet’s umbrella.

In acknowledgements, we learn something about the birth of the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook—that it took a few people who were relatively new to Gourmet to realize what an extraordinary resource* (italics mine) the editors had. Several editors came up with the idea of featuring the best cookie recipe from each year of the magazine’s existence.

They tell us “It was not until executive food editor Kemp Minifie began trolling through the archives that we really understood that this was more than a fabulous collection of cookies; it also told a very American story.  It was no accident that every one of us found excuses to spend time in the kitchen while test kitchen director Ruth Cousineau—who threw herself boy and soul, into baking the cookies—was immersed in the project. These cookies were not only delicious; they are also a fascinating window into history that none of us wanted to miss..”

And as wonderful as the cookies were all by themselves, the editors say, “it took the passion and inspiration of creative director Richard Ferretti, associate art director   Kevin DeMaria, and photographer  Romulo Yanes to make them dance. Their vision has made this book a delight to look at…”

They also confess that in the end, the book would not have been possible without Gourmet’s devoted readers, who sent their cookies, their recipes, and their comments, for so many years.  “This book belongs to you,” they conclude, “and we thank you for it.”

For those of us who cannot cook or bake without a visual idea of what the cookie (or cake, dessert, appetizer or prime rib dinner) should look like—the table of contents will make you swoon. There is a delightful photograph of each year’s chosen winner, starting with 1941.

*I often muse longingly on that extraordinary resource buried – wherever the Gourmet magazines and accompanying research material are now stored, while wondering what editor Ruth Reichl is doing now. I was a subscriber for many years – then let my subscription lapse – because I didn’t feel that the magazine spoke to me any more. When Ruth Reichl joined Gourmet’s editorial staff – I re-subscribed – in part because I cherish and love her books, in part –because whenever she writes something, I feel like she is speaking to me. That is, I think, a gift—and one I try to impart on the readers and subscribers to my blog, Sandychatter. When someone writes to me and tells me I am speaking to them – I feel that I have learned something precious from Ruth Reichl – as well as the other cookbook authors  whose work I admire – Marion Cunningham, M.F.K. Fisher, and Jean Anderson, to name a few.

In the Introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book, the editors tell us “Buy a cookie, and it’s just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they’re done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavor of home. for anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.

Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts. Not for nothing do we pack up our cookies and send them off to our far flung families. Like little ambassadors of good will, these morsels stand in for us. There are few people who don’t understand, at least subconsciously, how much a cookie can mean…”

But until the Gourmet editors began to work on THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, it had never occurred to them to look at history through a cookie prism. When they decided to select the best cookie from each of Gourmet’s sixty-eight years and became captivated, not surprisingly, by the language of cookies, so they printed the recipes as they originally appeared. In the early years, they write, the recipes were remarkably casual—as anyone who has collected cookbooks for decades would know.  (Church and club recipes from decades ago were especially casual). Write the editors “[it was a kind of] mysterious shorthand that assumes every reader was an accomplished cook who needed little in the way of guidance…”  “Bake in a moderate oven until crisp” is a classic instruction, they tell us.  They thought it interesting to watch as numbers crept into the recipes in the form of degrees, minutes and cups…”

[if I am not mistaken, it was Fannie Farmer who standardized recipes with measurements back in the day when she had a cooking school].

Following the Introduction, one of the most interesting I have ever read, there are two pages of Recipe Tips, with good suggestions—some that even I didn’t know.

The first chapter is the 1940s,  in which the editors write, “1941 was an unlikely time to laundry an epicurean magazine. War was looming along with the possibility of food rationing, but Gourmet’s founder. Earle MacAusland, convinced that soldiers who had spent time in Europe and Asia would be loath to come back to meat loaf, saw an opportunity.  Little wonder that Gourmet, published from a penthouse at the Plaza Hotel, concentrated on sophisticated fare. Cookies did not figure into the equation and the few recipes that the magazine published leaned towards old-fashioned American classics like wafers and sugar crisps, with a couple of European treats…”

Check out “Cajun Macaroons”, a crisp, chewy little cookie introduced in an early 1941 issue in which we also discover that Louis P. DeGouy became Gourmet’s Chef.  (I wrote about Chef DeGouy in Sandychatter – he was chef at the Waldorf Astoria for 30 years and was one of the founders of GOURMET magazine; see TRACING THE LIFE OF LOUIS P. DE GOUY posted in april, 2011 Sandychatter blog post. I am frequently nonplussed by the number of famous cooks/chefs/cookbook authors who—although prominent in their day—have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape – sls)

The next featured cookie is an icebox treat—the war was on and sugar was rationed. Actually, it was the first item to be rationed.  Wanting to do its patriotic bit, Gourmet magazine printed an article showing readers how to use honey in place of sugar. [Although one reason sugar was rationed was due to it being made in Hawaii—which, as we know, was bombed in Pearl Harbor at the onset of World War II, but it was also an ingredient used in making gun powder!  I discovered this when doing research of an article of mine, called HARD TIMES).

Gourmet provides us with a cookie called Honey Refrigerator Cookies which does contain a small amount of brown sugar but also contains half a cup of Honey.  This is followed by a recipe called Scotch Oat Crunchies; Gourmet Magazine and everybody else were trying various recipes using oatmeal and this recipe, which produces a small round cookie that you pair up with your choice of filling – dates, raisins, figs or whatever.  I think I will have to make a batch of these. They sound wonderful and I’m speculating that they would travel well if you send cookies to relatives or a favorite serviceman or woman. Another good traveler, advises Gourmet, is a cookie called Cinnamon Sugar Crisps, from Gourmet’s entire column called “Cookie Jar”.

The first postwar cookie to appear in Gourmet is one called Date Bars. Write the editors, “The recipe appeared in one of the many articles about Katish, a remarkable Russian cook who had many fans including M.F.K. Fisher who comments “I think I have copied every one of her recipes as they’ve appeared…”—and OMG, now I have discovered yet another great cook who appears in one of the Modern Library Food books published by Ruth Reichl in 2001 and containing an introduction from Marion Cunningham. The book was originally published in 1947, written by Wanda Frolov, under the title, “KATISH, OUR RUSSIAN COOK”—just another author I have never heard of before.

The next recipe that I am charmed with, this from December 1946 is Moravian White Christmas cookies, which I can’t wait to try.

If you only buy one more Christmas cookie cookbook in your life, check out THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK which is available on Amazon.com but be forewarned – when you type in this book title, Amazon will present it with many other cookie cookbooks that you may find irresistible.  It is also available on Alibris.com for as little as $2.43 for a new copy.

Ok, I’m ready to start mixing Christmas cookie dough!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE …The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking…by Joseph E. Dabny, is a monumental work, presenting Appalachian cuisine from pioneer days to the present.

Author Joseph Dabny is a retired newspaperman and public relationships executive who has studied Appalachian and hill-country food traditions for many years.

A beautifully written foreword is provided by noted food historian and cookbook author, John Egerton. He states, in part, “In place of the denigrating mythologies of Appalachia—the buffoonish Snuffy Smith-Lil’ Abner-Beverly Hllbillies stereotypes—we see these salt-of-the-earth citizens for what they truly area: smart, industrious, creative, frugal, good-humored, and highly skilled, especially when it comes to putting great meals on the table.

Because he grew up at tables such as these in the southern arc of the Appalachian highlands—and remains close by even now—Joe Dabney knows how to recreate the atmosphere and the characters and the food…Dabney is unquestionably the right person to pull together a patchwork quilt of a book such as this…”

The author was born in South Carolina in 1929; when his father, a merchant, went bankrupt by a wave of customer credit caused by the Great Depression, the family—which included six other children—left their home in the Piedmont for a rented farm in Greneville County, a hundred miles to the northwest.  “There,” writes Egerton, “just below the eastern shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Dabneys rode out the Depression with unwavering faith, hope and charity—in God, Franklin Roosevelt, and a support group of relatives and friends…”

“Back in Kershaw at the age of seven” says Egerton, “Joe had already learned the code of the hills and it would serve him well from then on…and it is those people, the ancients and his own more recent kin and neighbors, whose voices echo through Dabny’s smooth-flowing narrative. To be sure, this is a cookbook and most of the talk is about food—or over it, at the table, –but it is much more than that. It’s about characters like whiskey-maker Theodore (Thee) King of Gum Log, Georgia, and Simmie Free of Tiger, Georgia and ninety year old Nina Garrett of Near Cartecay, another Georgia hill-country community…Dabney’s book is also about hog-killing and smokehouses, about making lye hominy and gathering greens, about ramps and cushaws and leather britches [dried green beans], about cracklin’ bread and corncob jelly*, whistle pig and poke sallet, apple butter and stack cakes…”  (I made corncob jelly last year when my youngest son had a beautiful crop of corn on the cob. I removed most of the corn from the cobs, to blanch and freeze it – and not wanting to waste all those cobs, I made corncob jelly. It’s delicious!).

Mr. Dabney acknowledges that many people helped with the creation of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE,” which includes a bibliography of more than two hundred books.

I feel as though I should know Mr. Dabney; many familiar names jump off the pages of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE. My dearly-loved Georgian columnist Celestine Sibley, who died not long before I wrote my first review of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE in 1999 for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and had the delight of being featured in one of her newspaper articles…author Nathalie Dupree,  another favorite cookbook author, and author Janice  Holt Giles—whose books I have dearly loved my entire adult life, featuring pioneer history often centered around her home deep in a Kentucky ‘holler’ and made me love American pioneer history forever after—these are just a few of the American authors whose work I admire and relish and wish I had the ability to write like they do…they all recreate and make us familiar with the foodways and people of places such as Appalachia. Here, I noticed also, comments about Mark Sohn, whose great cookbook MOUNTAIN COUNTRY COOKING that I reviewed for CCE members some time ago.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE is not a cookbook you will breeze through…it should be savored, page by page, like a fine…scuppernong wine. Here is a history of a people and their food; a celebration of foodlore handed down from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and the Cherokee Nation.  As Celestine Sibley would have said, “This one’s a keeper”.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE was published by Cumberland House in Nashville in 1998. It is widely available on Amazon.com and other sites, starting at $3.33 for a pre-owned copy with a wide range of prices for new copies.

Mr. Dabney is also the author of THE FOOD, FOLKLORE AND ART OF LOWCOUNTRY COOKING, A CELEBRATION OF THE FOODS, HISTORY AND ROMANCE…

Another favorite of mine is BISCUITS, SPOONBREAD, AND SWEET POTATO PIE, by Bill Neal and if your interest is piqued to continue on a quest along these lines, you may want to also read John Egerton’s SOUTHERN FOOD, AT HOME, ON THE ROAD, IN HISTORY, originally published by Alfred Knopf in 1987.  Visit Amazon.com and Alibris.com for an extended list of titles by the author, not all are cookbooks.

For a more-in depth look at some of my favorite southern cookbooks, please refer to THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH, PARTS 1 AND II, posted on this blog in 2011.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

APPLES, ETC – SOME COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOKS BY Christopher Idone (and others).

Christopher Idone is the author of at least four best selling cookbooks—GLORIOUS FOOD, GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD, CHRISTOPHER IDONE’S SALAD DAYS, LEMONS—A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK and in 1993, APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK.

I need to interject a little information about Collins Publishers in San Francisco, for they were the company to come up with the concept of one-word cookbook titles, with glorious photography, and at an affordable price—the books originally were published at a $19.95 price. Thus it was that Christopher Idone wrote LEMONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK, as well as APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK. He is also the author of the best-selling cookbooks listed in the first paragraph.

My curiosity was piqued as I began searching for all the one-word title Country Garden Cookbooks—I discovered that Christopher Ione is not the author of all twelve titles I have discovered.   He is, however, the author of APPLES with gorgeous photography by Kathryn Kleinman, and LEMONS, also featuring photography by Kathryn Kkeinman. Cookbook addict that I am, I have just ordered four more of the one title country garden cookbooks. So, for the time being, let’s just forcus on APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK published in 1993 – because I love apples.

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit friends who live in Oregon and have a small (about six) apple trees of various varieties. We picked apples for days, filling every container, box, or wheelbarrow that my friends have. On a chilly Saturday morning in October, they – and their children and grandchildren –began running the apples through an apple cider machine and made as much cider as would fill all the containers on hand. (I was in the kitchen making a big pot of Cincinnati chili to feed the crew, and dicing apples in between stirring the chili pot).

In 1996, Mr. Idone’s GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD was honored as the cookbook of the year by Duncan Hines International Association of cooking Professionals.  A teacher and lecturer, Mr. Ione has served as food consultant to New York’s Master Chef Series, produced for PBS and is a frequent contributor as writer and photographer to national publications including HOUSE AND GARDEN, FOOD ARTS, CONDE NAST TRAVELER and THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE.

Kathryn Kleinman has provided the lush photographs of both LEMONS and APPLES, and speaking as an amateur photographer, I must say that I am envious of her wonderful combinations of light, color, and many wonderful varieties of apples. Not only does Mr. Idone provide us with tantalizing recipes to try…he also gives us a crash course in apples, with a glossary explaining how to select and store apples and a list (with photos) of the many kinds of apples indigenous to the United States.
The introduction, by Mr. Idone, is prose…he tells us that his “first chore around the house when I was maybe three or four or five was gathering the apples which had fallen to the ground and filling bushel and peck baskets made of wood”. He goes on to share his favorite memories of packing up the apples in his father’s ford wagon to take to the local cider mill, which belonged to a local apple grower who allowed his father to make his own cider.

At this point, I am asking myself why my grandmother use most of the apples from her apple trees  to make apple sauce—and wondering why my grandfather, who – I know – made wine from the concord grapes that grew in a small arbor in their back yard—never made any other kind of alcoholic beverage. . I can only wonder—there is no one left, on earth, to answer my questions]. My grandmother would send a wagon full of apples by way of one of us grandchildren to the nuns at St Leo’s who lived in a house behind the school. And I remember watching my grandmother make apple strudel. My sister could remember grandma, our mother, and two aunts peeling and cutting up apples for apple sauce which was canned in quart jars. What I do remember about the apple sauce is that during the war years of WW2, the applesauce was canned without the addition of sugar, which was rationed. We had very tart applesauce with almost every meal for years—you were allowed to sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top of the applesauce. (My sister Becky also remembered Grandma having a still in the kitchen, with a big doily over it. I don’t remember a still).

Also included in the introduction to APPLEs is a condensed lesson on apples in history, the Publishers tell us “In APPLES. Master Chef Christopher Idone has created a  repertoire of classic apple recipes. You’ll find enticing openers such as Apple and Butternut Squash Soup, Grilled Prawns with Winter Fruit Chutney, and a Breakfast Apple Omelet.  Robust main dishes featuring apples include Sautéed Quail with Cream and Calvados, Risotto with Apples and Chicken Curry…”

As for me, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to try the Cranberry-Apple Conserve and the Apple Fritters, which reminded me of those my grandmother used to make for us. Next on my list of delicious sounding recipes to try was Apple Marmalade and Winter Fruit Chutney. For something unique and colorful to serve as a salad during the holidays, may I suggest Beet, Radicchio And Apple Salad with Roquefort.

I began searching through my own cookbook files and checking titles on Amazon.com when I realized how much Collins Publishers has been able to expand on this one-title theme.  In addition to Idone’s collection of APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK (published in 1993) and LEMONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK (also published in 1993)- you may want to look for the following, all published by Collins Publisher of San Francisco:

POTATOES – A COUNRY GARDEN COOKBOOK, by Maggie Waldron, published in 1993

GREENS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY SIBELLA KRAUS, published in 1993

PEARS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY Janet Hazen, published in 1994

TOMATOES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY JESSE ZIFF COOL, published in 1994

SQUASH – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY REGINA SCHRAMBLING, published in 1994

BERRIES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOK BY SHARON KRAMIS, published in 1994

SUMMER FRUIT – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK by EDON WAYCOTT, published in 1995

ONIONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY JESSE ZIFF COOL, published in 1995

CORN – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY DAVIS TANIS, published in 1995

HERB – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY ROSALIND CREASY published in 1995

I already had five of the titles – and I have four more on order through Amazon.  I’m sure I will want to complete the set of a dozen cookbooks.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog, 10/23/13

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS, BY PAMELA ALLARDICE

Some years ago, I wrote an article on figs for the University of California Extension Service which, at that time, published a newsletter…the article was “everything I ever wanted to know—and share with the world” on the subject of figs. Oddly, I had titled it, “Who Gives a Fig?”

So, you ask, “What’s the point?” the point is, I had just finished reading (and salivating over) a book newly published in 1994 titled “A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS…TRADITIONS, MYTHS, AND MOUTH-WATERING RECIPES” published by Hill of Content, in 1993. The very first chapter is titled “Who Gives a Fig?” and contains pages and pages (about twenty—I counted)  on the history of figs throughout the world, including biblical quotes and superstitions (i.e., the Italians say fig leaves are unlucky and believe that evil spirits lurk in them during the summer months).

There is a wealth of reference material here – for instances, there are over 700 fig varieties in the world, and we learn that the fig is a member of the mulberry family. It is one of the oldest known plants in the world, and some writers have even suggested that the unspecified fruit that Eve offered Adam was actually a fig, not an apple. We do know that the earliest biblical reference to figs is the account of the fall of Adam and Eve, whereby they sewed fig leaves together to form aprons to cover their nakedness.

She discusses how the fig has featured in the mythologies of the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks, as well as in Buddhist beliefs and in Christian tales.

Author Pamela Allaardice certainly did her homework—included in this book are two pages of bibliography.

As the owner of two prolific fig trees [until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008] I was constantly searching for good new fig recipes—and if you have a fig tree or if you just enjoy the taste of figs–Pamela Allardice’s book is for you.

Recipes? Try one o the many desserts—from chocolate fig mousse to fig and ginger pudding…or perhaps figgy pears or figs flambé. There are recipes for figs at Christmas, such as Christmas pudding, or Dutch Christmas bread…a fig and nectarine ice cream, or perhaps figs and mangoes in syrup. The author provides recipes for a Hungarian Fig Wine (that I wish I had tried) and baked figs with cherries and cinnamon…three are recipes for jams, sauces and preserves—from jellied fig and walnut relish to fig and watermelon preserves…fig butter and fig/apple spread.

For the adventurous, who want to try something different, there are recipes for a roast pork with figs and apples, or perhaps you might want to try a Medieval Meatball recipe.

I checked with both Amazon.com and Alibris.com—because I was startled to discover that A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS has maintained a distinct value—possibly because so little has been written about figs.  Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting at $8.00.  A new copy starts at $35.00.  Alibris.com has copies, all starting at $35.00 and up. It originally sold new for $18.95.

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was originally published in Australia where author Pamela Allardice was editor of NATURE AND  HEALTH MAGAZINE and was a regular contributor  to AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY STYLE and HOUSE & GARDEN. At the time A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was published, Allardice had written ten other books with fascinating titles – LOVE POTIONS and MOTHER KNOWS BEST.

Southern Californians may find themselves with a fig tree—last year I discovered that a fellow bowler on the league I had joined –had fig trees. Hers are a different variety from the black mission figs we had in Arleta—these are a small green fig—but they ground up the same way in a blender and I was able to make strawberry fig jam, often called Mock Strawberry Jam.  If you enjoy figs—or even have a fig tree, you might want to find a copy of A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS—worth the price if only for the well-written history.

–Updated Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog 10-21-13

COOKING UP A STORM/Recipes lost and found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans

COOKING UP A STORM/RECIPES LOST AND FOUND FROM THE TIMES-PICAYUNE OF NEW ORLEANS, hereafter referred to simply as COOKING UP A STORM was co-edited by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker. COOKING UP A STORM, published by Chronicle Books in 2008, is perhaps one of the greatest and most difficult endeavors to ever confront a regional group.  In this instance heading the regional group was the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Louisiana. The “group” turned out to be many of the people of New Orleans,    

It may interest you to know (per Wikipedia) “The Times-Picayune is an American daily newspaper published in New Orleans, Louisiana since January 25, 1837. The current publication is the result of the 1914 merger of The Picayune with the Times-Democrat. The paper was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2006 for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Four of The Times-Picayune’s staff reporters also received Putlizers for breaking news reporting for their coverage of the storm. The paper funds the Poe Award for journalistic excellence, which is presented annually by the White House Correspondents’ Association..”.

That being said, who isn’t familiar with the utter destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, when the horrific Category 5 storm smashed into New Orleans?  The seawall collapsed, triggering a flood that washed away nearly an entire American city. (From the Introduction to Cooking Up a Storm).

Here are some statistics to consider:

Hurricane Katrina was the largest and third strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in the U.S.   In New Orleans, the levees were designed for Category 3, but Katrina peaked at a Category 5 hurricane, with winds up to 175 miles per hour. The storm surge from Katrina was 20-feet (six meters) high.  

Over 700 people are reported as still missing as a result of hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina affected over 15 million people in different factors such as economy, evacuations, and gas prices or drinking water.

The final death toll was at 1,836, primarily from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238).An estimated 80 percent of New Orleans was under water, up to 20 feet deep in places .Hurricane Katrina caused $81 billion in property damages, but it is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi may exceed $150 billion, earning the title of costliest hurricane ever in US history. Hurricane Katrina impacted about 90,000 square miles. The region affected by the storm supported roughly 1 million non-farm jobs, and still, hundreds of thousands of local residents were left unemployed by the hurricane.

More than 70 countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance after the hurricane. Kuwait made the largest single pledge of $500 million, but Qatar, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh made very large donations as well.

And, although the people of New Orleans were strongly urged to evacuate before the storm made landfall—many didn’t – some didn’t believe it would be so horrific, or that the seawall would cave in; others stayed in their homes or inside hospitals perhaps because of the logistics of being moved to higher ground or a safer place. Instead, Hurricane Katrina was the worst—and costliest—storm in the history of the USA.

In the introduction to COOKING UP A STORM, the co-authors explain “Beginning in the hours leading up to the storm and continuing through its devastating effects and the many months of difficult struggles that followed, The Times-Picayune has served as a strong voice for the city and a beacon of recovery. On October 27, eight weeks after the storm and just two weeks after the staff members of the Times-Picayune were able to return to their building in downtown New Orleans from their exile in Baton Rouge, the Food Section resumed publication. The city still lay in ruins. The death toll still mounted every day. More than 250,000 people were still living in exile. And every day, the people who did return took a grim inventory of the homes, businesses, Jobs, and irreplaceable objects collected over a lifetime that now lay in ruins.

The editors at the newspaper had long known about New Orleans’ deep and abiding relationship with its food. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they were about to get a lesson in just how profound that connection was, and remains today. In New Orleans, food is culture. Food is family. Food is comfort. Food is life.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, a diaspora spread across America. Displaced citizens from New Orleans began to cook their comfort foods, bringing their indigenous dishes to places like Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh—places where people didn’t know etouffee from café au lait.

Back home, people were anxious for their favorite restaurant, corner grocery store, sandwich shop, or neighborhood café to reopen. They wanted a roast beef po-boy dripping with gravy, a bowl of rich gumbo, or maybe just a cup of café au lait and a hot beignet to give them both physical and spiritual sustenance as they tried to rebuild their shattered homes and lives…at the newspaper, a frenetic dialogue commenced with readers, as they sought to replace their treasured recipe collections most of them gathered over a lifetime, and destroyed after lying under water for three weeks. A faithful reader named Phyllis Marquart suggested to food editor Judy Walker a new theme for the recipe exchange column. On October 27, 2005, Walker invited readers to participate in ‘Rebuilding New Orleans, Recipe by Recipe’.

‘Exchange Alley’ (The column is named after a street in the French Quarter) became the avenue to reclaim recipes. Walker paired readers searching for recipes with those who still had theirs. She would print letters from those seeking recipes and ask for responses which she included in the column a week or two later”. [This reminds me of the way food editor Fern Storer operated her column in a Cincinnati newspaper for many years. Occasionally my mother would send me the food section of the newspaper and I would send some requested recipes to Fern-sls] “Sometimes, Walker was able to find the recipes in the paper’s archives. At other times, readers filled the request from their own recipe clippings. A week after a reader’s request for Baked Stuffed Oysters was printed in ‘Exchange Alley’, another reader sent a copy of the recipe she had clipped from the newspaper twenty years before…”

There is a great deal more to the Introduction of COOKING UP A STORM but the bottom line is that the requests poured in, continuously, with many readers who had lost their recipe collections and cookbooks, asking for a cookbook printing all the lost treasured recipes.

This is something I could related to so easily -I  just look around at my collections of cookbooks and over 200 recipe boxes, of more than fifty 3-ring binders filled with recipes collected over a period of 50 years–many from women’s magazines, many of them clipped from the Los Angeles Time’s weekly S.O.S. columns and thinking how unimaginably lost I would be without all of my cookbooks and recipes.

The upshot was that the Times-Picayune editors asked cookbook authors Marcelle Bienvenu and Emeril Lagasse to take on the project of building a cookbook from the many recipe requests. Marcelle is the author of “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?” published in 2006. Bienvenu also writes a popular column called “Cooking Creole” for the Times-Picayune. She also understands that in New Orleans, it’s not just about the food, but also the stories that go with the recipes, (italics mine) which explains how they came to be and who created them. [I think this is a concept that my siblings, cousins and I understood when we compiled a cookbook in 2004 called “Grandma’s Favorite” – our tribute to our grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and ourselves—in giving credit where credit was due.

I love the concept of COOKING UP A STORM, appropriately named, given the circumstances under which it was published. The Introduction alone provides detailed statistics, most of which yields a great deal more information about Hurricane Katrina than we might have learned about from television at the time of the disaster. And throughout all of the news broadcasts and everything we learned—at the time Hurricane Katrina struck—and then in the horrific  aftermath—I never stopped to think about the average person in New Orleans losing a lifetime of recipe collections.

I wish I had known, when the Times-Picayune began its quest to assist people in re-establishing recipe collections, that I had known and could have possibly lent assistance from my own collection. I didn’t know. I don’t remember ever hearing, or reading about, the newspaper establishing “Exchange Alley”.   I hope that COOKING UP A STORM was a huge success.

As cookbooks go, there is a wealth of New Orleans culinary expertise in COOKING UP A STORM – from appetizers to Soups, Gumbos & Chowders, from Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, to casseroles and vegetables, from Cakes & Pies, to Cookies & Candy, from Puddings and Other Desserts – to Lagniappe – (a little something extra) – you will find many of the lost treasured recipes of New Orleans’ residents. Many New Orleans homeowners may have lost everything they owned, but the people of the Times-Picayune newspaper and their dedicated readers helped save something we all treasure – our favorite recipes.

I have Marcelle Bienvenu’s “WHO’S YOUR MAMA…” in my collection of Louisiana cookbooks. I also have “First – You Make a Roux” from the Lafayette Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, along with stacks of community cookbooks from Louisiana – not just New Orleans. I also have a treasured copy of the 9th edition of “The Official Picayune Creole Cookbook”, first published in 1901 by the Times-Picayune Publishing Company, along with a 1984 edition of “RIVER ROAD RECIPES”, first published in 1939 by the Junior League of Baton Rouge—which, by 1984, had gone through 40 printings!  I am non-plussed by the copyright date of 1939 for the first River Road Recipes edition. I think there was some debate a while back when the first Junior League cookbook was published—might it have been River Road Recipes? I’m not sure but 1939 sounds pretty old to me, for a junior league cookbook.

Amazon.com has copies both new and pre-owned copies of COOKING UP A STORM which was published in 2008 by Chronicle Books. It is a soft-cover cookbook that apparently has not been published in a hardbound edition. It is also listed under Alibris.com with copies selling for $8.75, more or less.

My copy has been stamped “no longer property of the Seattle Public Library”, followed by a stamp stating “Received Capitol Hill Library 2009”—so my copy has been around the block a few times, and luckily for me, has fallen into good hands. I will forever more think of what total loss means to people – not just their homes and furniture, clothing and belongings – it can be the loss of treasured recipes as well.

Review by –Sandra Lee Smith, October 2, 2013