Lucy Knisley's graphic novel Relish: My Life in the Kitchen zigzags between biography, cookbook, travelogue, and manifesto of all things culinary. What's more, her fun, vibrantly colorful artwork often made me very hungry. This is the mark of success for such a book.
Relish explores every aspect of food's vast appeal, whether it is for purposes of comfort, nourishment, or to just satisfy that insatiable craving for sautéed mushrooms.
Southern Living’s Farmers Market Cookbook has interesting, beautiful recipes that are not difficult for an ordinary cook to produce. This is to be expected as it is typical of anything from Southern Living’s magazines and cookbook lines. But what is different here is the book’s focus on vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and other foods that are available seasonally at local farmers markets.
Legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne wrote more than 20 cookbooks, but surely none could have been closer to his heart or his roots than Southern Cooking.
By the mid-1800s, American middle class women frequently turned to Godey’s Lady’s Book for household advice, sewing patterns, and recipes. Although founded by Louis Godey, from 1837 to 1877, it was led by Editor Sarah Josepha Hale and under her leadership, circulation rose dramatically. In Civil War Recipes, Lily May and John Spaulding have done a very nice job of selecting recipes from the first part of the 1860s run of the magazine and presenting them along with enough culinary history to make for an interesting read.
Sometimes you check out a book that starts a new family hobby. The book Paletas started a wonderful new hobby for our family. The day before my son found this book he was watching a Food network show on Paletas, the delicious Latin-American treats that we call popsicles. The next day my son found this book at the library: Paletas : Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice, and Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson. It was summertime and we made the key lime popsicles rolled in pie crust crumbs and each popsicle tasted just like a piece of key lime pie. We also made the avocado paletas and even though they sounded dreadful, they were really delicious! Of course we also made the more traditional lemon-lime popsicles.
The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff. Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization. Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.
Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role. At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged. Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.
After marrying a rancher, former Los Angeles food snob and vegetarian Ree Drummond found herself in the Oklahama countryside as a ranch wife and mom to four kids, all with big, meat-loving appetites. She set out to “create delicious food - food that would allow me to tickle my cooking fancy, but still make the cowboys’ heart go pitter pat.” Drummond started a food blog called The Pioneer Woman, where she posted step-by-step directions to a number of delicious recipes, starting with “How to Cook a Steak.” Drummond’s mouthwatering recipes, combined with her witty comments and lovely photographs, skyrocketed in popularity, which led to her first book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.
Upon first glancing at Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, I very nearly put it aside to be reshelved. It was too beautiful. Huge and heavy--laden with photographs--and featuring a cover shot of something that looked as though it took a heck of a lot of time, money and energy to pull off, it didn’t seem like something that would work for me.
But first glances can be deceiving. Almost every recipe involves relatively normal if delicious ingredients. The techniques used are not difficult at all for someone who knows her way around a basic kitchen. These are the sort of recipes which will be made again and again--and be shared with demanding friends. Each is introduced very charmingly, in a way that conveys much about the author’s French experiences.
When one thinks about the U.S. Civil War, or the War Between the States, one does not come up with images of food and recipes. Rather, it is the exact opposite: we think about hunger and even starvation. But the truth is, some of the most creative recipes are invented at times when the basic food elements are scarce.
If you are like me, you probably enjoy exploring different cultures through food. I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations
I would love to be able to go to all these countries and taste their cuisines one day. But for now, I do it through reading. It is truly amazing to learn that many famous cooks and food writers were ordinary people and had to endure many struggles on their quests to find a niche for themselves. In these books, we will travel and experience cuisines both in the USA and around the world.