Every so often, some non-collector person will be visiting my home and will look around at all the bookcases throughout the house—filled mostly with cookbooks—and mostly double-rowed– and then say, in a tone plainly meant to convey bewilderment, “Do you actually READ all these books?”
The inference is, of course, why in the world would anyone want to read a cookbook?
Well, one reason is that I love history. I especially enjoy American history and I am completely enchanted with the combination of the evolution of food and recipes along with American history.
THE MCCLELLANVILLE COAST COOKBOOK” by the McClellanville Arts Council, in McClellanville, South Carolina, provides ample satisfaction to those who also enjoy this combination of food and history.
State the authors, “It was not so long ago that people on the McClellanville Coast made bulrush baskets to “fan” rice, mortars and pestles to pound it, and trunks and gates to control the flow of water on the rice fields. They operated mills to grind their corn and rice. They wove nets and built the boats they fished with. They butchered hogs and cured the meat, using salt they obtained by evaporating sea water. They cultivated truck farms and home gardens, summer and winter. Ask people and they’ll tell you their happiest memories, recall how all these wonderful local ingredients came together—in good cooking.”
Winner of the prestigious 1993 Tabasco Community Cookbook Award, this cookbook opens with three short “essays” which provide a diverse glimpse into life along this South Carolina coast community. First is “Awash with Food” by Jay Shuler, explaining how he and his family collected food throughout the year—especially crabs, but also oysters and clams, and huckleberries from the swamp woods. He tells how his father hunted wild turkey and how his parents and grandparents farmed and tended orchards of nuts.
There is an intriguing short story told by John Ackerman, of a family of fifteen—John had two brothers and nine sisters, and how his mama cooked huge pans of biscuits three times a day. He relates how his father, who lived to be 92 years old (‘had all of his teeth, eyes didn’t need no glasses’) ate nothing but hog meat all his life. He shares with us the experience of hog killing. (“we’d kill six to eight hogs a day”) and provides insight and little known details to harvesting a rice crop—details you and I would never think twice about when we pour a cup of Minute rice into boiling water! But for these people, and their ancestors, it was their livelihood.
Recipes, oral histories, poetry, prose, prints, photographs, and paintings from McClellandville..are magically stirred into this cookbook offering.
Yes, you say, but what about the recipes? “THE MCCLELLANVILLE COAST COOKBOOK” keeps its promise for good eating. “Find out how to make Mary Scott’s Oyster Casserole, Rose William’s Sweet potato pone, Willie May Kilgore’s Bread Pudding, Moss Swamp Hot Venison Sausage”…recipes range far and wide from alligator (page 176—“the hardest part about cooking alligator is finding a cooperative one”) to Zucchini Pizza (page 95 and sounds delish).
While you and I may not hanker for a plate of alligator meat (besides which, the tail is the best part), rest assured there are dozens and dozens of great recipes in between A and Z. Look for Nana’s Pate, Roasted Rosemary Chicken, Sally’s Corn Salad, Wild Rice and Hazelnut Salad, Sweet Potato Bread, Anyone-can-Do-It-in-two-minutes-flat Quiche Lorraine, Mama’s Funeral Salad, and dozens of others. Or to quote a McClellanville resident, the recipes are “good enough to make you kick the dog when they’re all gone”.
It isn’t surprising that this cookbook won the coveted Tabasco Award; it is truly unique and totally fascinating. Good reading and Bon Appetit!
I found the McClellanville Coast Cookbook on both Amazon.com and Alibris.com starting at $4.39 for a pre-owned copy. New copies are such an outrageous price, I’d be embarrassed to even quote one of them. (if I thought it was really worth that much money, I’d sell my copy!)
Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!