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recipes

May 11 2017

Cooking with Diana Gabaldon!

by Jencey G

gabaldonI have been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s books for a long time.  I have read most of the Outlander series.  I also really enjoy the Outlander series on television which are available on DVD from the library.   Diana has a couple of Outlandish companions that give extra details on the Outlander series and allow readers delve  deeper into the series.

Another book that has recently come out is the Outlander Kitchen cookbook.  This book takes readers into the food and drink aspect of the Outlander series.   Dishes such as: Claire’s Nettle Kissed Buns; Brianna’s Bridies; Banoffee Pie; Bannocks; Battlefield Blackberry Jam;  Garlic and Sage Sausage; and many more.  The food follows the storyline of Outlander.  So many of these dishes are native to England, Scotland, and the USA.

I have enjoyed cooking since I was a girl.  I also love to bake.  So I thought it would be a fun experience to check out some of the recipes included in this book.  I flipped through the book and picked several that I thought I might be able to make.

So my first recipe attempt was Mrs. Bugs Buttermilk Drop Biscuits.  It was the first time I made biscuits from scratch that actually tasted like biscuits.  I think this recipe was better than anything I have in my current collection of recipes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs was the next recipe. The cookbook goes into a description about the characters and their process for preparation.  The author’s of the cookbook include which book the dish came from and some dialogue describing the scene. I followed the recipe, but I did not enjoy this recipe.

I have a few more recipes I would like to try.  I am also looking forward to reading the further adventures of Jamie, Claire, Brianna and Roger’s family.  I always look forward to the next season of Outlander!

Try a few recipes from your favorite characters in the Outlander Kitchen cookbook! Diana’s books are available in all formats with DCPL.

These items can be found in the catalog:

Outlander                                                                                                                   Outlander TV

Dragon Fly In Amber

Voyager

Drums of Autumn

The Fiery Cross

A Breath of Snow and Ash

An Echo In The Bone

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood

The Outlandish Companion

The Outlandish Companion Volume 2

The Outlander series DVDs

 

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Mar 3 2017

Keeping It Simple

by Dea Anne M

I love to cook. This statement will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. In fact, I imagine that some regular readers of this blog might think of me as “…that one writer who goes on and on about cooking and food. I mean it’s non-stop. Talk about obsessed!” Well, maybe I am – a little obsessed that is – and I freely admit that I love having a day during which I have nothing to do but cook an elaborate meal – no groceries left to shop for, all cooking implements accounted for and ready, (presumably) grateful  guests already invited – I love it all! That being said, my life is a lot like yours in that although I want to eat well, and at home, most evenings – I don’t have unlimited cash or hours to spend in getting meals to the table. Basic templates work well for me – frittata or quiche and salad, protein and pan sauce with roasted vegetables, good old rice and beans – I do them all, and often.

Now I realize that being able to do this rests on the reality that I’ve been cooking a long time and I understand at this point how to do certain things. When I was first starting out in the kitchen, I relied on cookbooks with some pretty mixed results. Don’t get me wrong. Using cookbooks can be a great way to learn on your own but as is the case with so much in life definitions of such concepts as “simple” can be very subjective. For some recipe writers, “simple”means that the cook just needs to open a couple of boxes and cans – never mind that the resulting quick dish tastes exactly like a box or a can. Other recipe creators seem convinced that a “simple” dish means you needn’t grind or pluck something first in order to begin preparing dinner. What I mainly look for in a recipe these days, or really in any book about food and cooking, is inspiration for what I might create with my existing skills out of ingredients that won’t be too inaccessible or pricey. If an idea for a meal can use what I already have on hand – well, that’s a delicious bonus. Here are some resources available from DCPL that have been inspiring me lately. Some of these I’ve mentioned in other posts, but hey, a good book is a good book.

Poor Man’s Feast: a love story of comfort, desire, and the art of simple cooking by Elissa Altman is written not by a chef but by a feastwoman who simply loves food. For many years, the tendency in her own cooking was toward the elaborate – game birds, exotic vegetables arranged in towers, lobster bisque.  No ingredient was too expensive or outre. Then, Altman met the love of her life, a New Englander devoted to frugality and simple living, and everything for this born and bred New Yorker changed. This is a wonderful meditation on the power of love and what it is exactly that transforms mere ingredients into something delicious. The recipes that end each chapter are straight-forward, delicious and, as the title promises, simple.

While there are many recipes in Tamar Adler’s lovely book An mealEverlasting Meal: cooking with economy and grace, I wouldn’t call it primarily a cookbook. Instead, it is a meditation on how to live a practical yet elegant life. Surprisingly, it all starts by boiling a pot of water and twines beautifully and hypnotically from there. I have read this book quite a few times and I never fail to be inspired by it in my own kitchen. I guarantee that Adler’s book will help you approach leftover rice and roasted vegetables in a brand new way. Highly recommended.

I sometimes find Jamie Oliver’s rugby scrum mateyness and amplified energy a little hard to take, but you cannot deny his revolutionenthusiasm for what he does. The British chef is well known by now for his commitment to improving school lunches, both in his native country as well as here in the United States. Also, well known is Oliver’s “you can do it” attitude about cooking. It’s a refreshing approach when one grows weary of gorgeously photographed cooking tomes authored by imperious chefs who think nothing of ordering us to prepare five different sauces for the “peasant style” duckling that we’ll be eating for dinner (about five days from now) or to process coffee beans and hazelnuts into a fine powder (sift three times to remove impurities!) to sprinkle atop the cherimoya-kumquat ice cream that we have churned by hand. These are the cookbooks that make you fling down your spatula and decide to just call out for a pizza. The food photos in Jamie’s Food Revolution: rediscover how to cook simple, delicious, affordable meals certainly don’t resemble those in the “cheffy” books. In fact, these dishes look exactly like what you would produce at home in your own kitchen and that’s kind of the point. Straightforward roasts, pasta dishes, easy curries and stir fries – this really is simple food – bound to inspire novices and experienced home cooks alike in a way that the gorgeous yet complicated  cookbooks never could. I also love Oliver’s “pass it on” philosophy by which he advocates learning a couple of recipes and then teaching them to a few other people and ask that they pass them on to still others. Sure, it won’t bring any of us clearer skin, better gas mileage or world peace anytime soon but it might help make the world a better place. Also, think how much money you’ll save by not buying fancy cookbooks or pizza!

I’ve been concentrating here on titles that seek to inspire by simplepromoting a specific philosophy about cooking and food. I want to end by recommending two books that are focused purely on recipes but carry out the simple food theme beautifully. They are The Best Simple Recipes by the editors of America’s Test Kitchens and Simple Fare: rediscovering the pleasures of real food by Ronald Johnson. The Test Kitchens book, as with all that this team has produced, gives us recipes that have been exhaustively tested until they really are the best. Johnson’s book has a much older copyright (1989!) but the recipes are both budget conscious and really delicious. A home cook could use either of these books as a sole kitchen reference and be completely satisfied with the results for a very long time.

How about you? What’s your definition of simple cooking? And what, by the way, is your favorite cookbook or cooking guide?

 

 

 

 

 

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Feb 10 2014

Laura’s world

by Dea Anne M

Getting snowed in the week before last  reminded me of a much-beloved book from my childhood. I’m thinking of course of  The Long Winter which is part of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books. Set in the later 1800’s and forward and based on the Ingalls family’s peripetatic life (Wilder changed some things – most notably some of the chronology and the age of the main character whom she based on herself) the series begins with Little House in the Big Woods and ends with The First Four Years (which was published after Wilder’s death). The Long Winter is a fictionalized account of an actual event which took place in De Smet, South Dakota. Blizzards began in the early fall of 1880 and continued through the late spring of 1881 and attacked the area with such frequency that trains were snowed in on the tracks and the townspeople faced lack of fuel and near starvation. I don’t know about you, but that puts some aspects about our recent snow storm into perspective for me.

It’s difficult for me to exaggerate how much I loved these books as a child. That isn’t to say that there weren’t some aspects of the stories that bothered me. Some of the characters express very unpleasant racial attitudes (especially Ma Ingalls) and I was always vaguely troubled by Pa’s insistence on uprooting his family so dramatically and so often. In the books, the Ingalls family moves from Wisconsin to Kansas then back to Wisconsin then to Minnesota and finally to South Dakota. Of course, by the time I turned ten my own family had moved at least that many times, and always for my father’s work, so make of that what you will.

Now you shouldn’t think that I actually wanted to be a pioneer girl myself what with all the stampeding oxen, creeks filled with leeches and grasshopper invasions but it was delicious to read about such exotic things. It was also comforting to recognize things that Laura’s world and mine had in common – sibling love and combat, strong parental affection, animals, school and, of course, mean girls like Nellie Oleson. I especially loved reading about the clothes the characters wore and how they fed themselves (or couldn’t as in The Long Winter ) and to this day I love books that describe fashion and food in detail (like the books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series).

Would you like to explore the world of “Little House yourself or rediscover its pleasures? If so, DCPL has what you need. Here’s a list of the books and all are available from DCPL.big woods

cookbookAfter reading about such exotic foodstuffs as prairie chicken and maple sugar on snow you might get the urge to try out some frontier cooking of your own. If so, Barbara M. Walker’s Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories will be just what you need. I can’t promise that you’ll care for blackbird pie (Little Town on the Prairie) or stewed jack rabbit and dumplings (Little House on the Prairie) but you might very well love fried apples and onions (Farmer Boy) or vanity cakes (On the Banks of Plum Creek). All in all, this is a charming companion to the series.

wilderIf you really develop a fascination with all things Laura, don’t miss The Wilder Life : my adventures in the lost world of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure. A lifelong devotee of the books, McClure begins to delve deeper into the world of the series. She even goes so far as to buy a churn on eBay. She sets up the churn, works the churn for about twenty-five minutes, and when she looks inside she discovers…butter. Butter which tastes remarkably like regular butter. McClure reports that “…I felt like a genius and a complete idiot at the same time.” McClure is an engaging writer – both sincere and hilarious. I’ve only just started the book and I’ve laughed out loud at least a dozen times. Highly recommended.

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Jan 10 2014

Chez Panisse and its legacy

by Dea Anne M

Over forty years ago, a culinary event occurred which would have an influence far beyond anything that anyone could have predicted at the time. In 1971, Alice Waters, along with a group of friends and investors, opened Chez Panisse, the Berkeley, CA restaurant which has become a model everywhere for restaurant menus featuring seasonal, locally based cuisine. In fact, one could argue, as have many, that Chez Panisse changed forever what we think of in this country as “fine dining.”

Years spent studying in France during college sharpened Waters’  ideas of what American cuisine could be and her involvement in the Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s shaped her as a lifelong activist. Waters’  strong vision, combined with persistence and a genius for collaboration, brought Chez Panisse into being. She conceived the restaurant as a place that would be like having dinner at someone’s house. The emphasis would be on the quality of the food and the warmth of the atmosphere. Up until that time, most fine restaurants tended to be chilly temples of cuisine where chefs ruled supreme and the idea of using organic, locally sourced ingredients was uncommon to say the least. Chez Panisse (named for Waters’ favorite character from a trilogy of films by the French director Marcel Pagnol) changed all of that. Also new to many dinners was the idea of a strictly limited menu. From the beginning, the restaurant (there is a separate cafe upstairs) has served one meal a night at a fixed price. On opening night, the menu was Pate en Croute, Duck with Olives, and a plum tart priced at $3.95. The meal on offer January 11th of this year will include (among other things) Dungeness crab, grass-fed beef, and a chocolate tart and will cost $100. Times do change.

In recent years, Alice Waters has extended her focus to include such projects as The Edible Schoolyard which gets children involved in growing, harvesting and preparing their own food and which has affiliates throughout the country.  This program has spawned an important off-shoot in the School Lunch Initiative which seeks to make a healthy, sustainable and fresh meal part of every school child’s day.

40 yearsIf you’d like to learn more about what Alice Waters is up to now, check out this article from the Epicurious website.

If you want to learn more about the evolution of Chez Panisse, DCPL can offer 40 years of Chez Panisse: the power of gathering by Alice Waters and friends. The book features lavish photographs and eloquent text as well as gorgeous reproductions of the beautiful menus designed for the restaurant by Waters’ long-time friend Patty Curtan.

Do you think you’d like to cook at home like they do at Chez Panisse? If so, check out these titles from DCPL.

Also from Alice Waters:

united

Finally,  if you’d like to learn more about the culinary “revolution” that occurred in this country throughout the 1960’s and 70’s (and beyond), don’t miss David Kamp’s funny, dishy, and very well researched book The United States of Arugula: how we became a nation of gourmets. This one comes highly recommended (by me…but then I’m the one writing this post!).

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Nov 29 2013

The feast…and its aftermath

by Dea Anne M

By the time you read this post, Thanksgiving will have come and gone but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.  Whether you host a big gathering for which you do all the cooking or you enjoy a potluck with friends, DCPL has resources to help you prepare the best holiday meal ever.

Let’s say you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving but it’s the first time you’ve siftonprepared it. Or maybe you’ve been asked to bring a dish and haven’t a clue as to how to make it. An excellent resource is Thanksgiving: how to cook it well by Sam Sifton. This is a calm, authoritative guide to everything Thanksgiving and could be the only Thanksgiving cookbook that you will ever need. Also well worth considering is How To Cook a Turkey: and all the other trimmings from the editors of  Fine Cooking magazine. A fine guide for beginners as well as experienced cooks, this book provides detailed instructions for all the well known holiday dishes.

Of course, not everyone wants to serve and eat a turkey. Maybe you are vegan bittmanor vegetarian or you just want to take the focus off of meat. For a really impressive compendium of vegetarian cooking, check out Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: simple meatless recipes for great food. This book has recipes for every vegetarian and vegan dish that you can imagine as well as excellent suggested menus. You’re sure to find plenty here to prepare the most festive of holiday feasts. And keep in mind The Heart of the Plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation by Mollie Katzen. Katzen is the author of the well-regarded cookbooks The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life With Menu and this most recent volume is just as charming and visually appealing as the two older books with less of an emphasis on dairy products and eggs.

Of course, Thanksgiving usually means leftovers…lots and lots of bubblyleftovers…and for many of us that’s the best part of the holiday. When I was growing up my family would usually just make up plates of whatever each person liked best and reheat but you might want to transform your leftovers into something that doesn’t so much resemble the holiday meal. Many think that casseroles are the right and classic home for leftovers. If you agree, check out the pleasures contained within the pages of Bake Until Bubbly: the ultimate casserole cookbook by Clifford A. Wright and James Villas’ Crazy for Casseroles: 275 all-American hot-dish classics.

sandwichesMaybe you believe that soup is the proper vehicle for your leftover turkey (including homemade turkey stock!). Soup fans should check out The Best Recipe: soups and stews from the editors at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy to make recipes by Betty Rosbottom. Maybe you’re a member of the club that considers turkey sandwiches the absolute ultimate. If so, let me suggest Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: recipes, history, and trivia for everything between sliced bread or Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: the best sandwiches in America by Margaux Sky.

What will I do with leftover turkey this year? Nothing! This week, I’m heading to my mom’s house and she has already announced that the menu is to be everybody’s favorite…lasagna.

How do you like your Thanksgiving leftovers?

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Nov 1 2013

Marcella says…

by Dea Anne M

On September 29th, one of the great culinary lights passed away. Marcella Hazan was 89 years old, and since the late 1970’s has been considered by many (very many) to be the absolute authority on authentic Italian cooking.  While some people found her difficult, Hazan did not suffer fools gladly and was notably impatient. Her precision and genius level palate made her a revered figure in the culinary world.
essentials

Marcella Hazan (nee Polini) was born in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and trained as a scientist, graduating with a doctorate in biology and natural sciences. Up until her marriage in 1955 to Victor Hazan, she had never done any cooking. She did, however, grow up in a family of talented and enthusiastic cooks and her taste memories served her well once she and her husband moved to New York City shortly after their marriage. Hazan found that she could easily reproduce the dishes that she had grown up with in Italy. Eventually, she began giving cooking lessons in her apartment and in 1969 she opened The School of Classic Italian Cooking. Soon, she came to the attention of Craig Claiborne, then the food editor of the New York Times, who did a story about her. A book contract soon followed and in 1973 The Classic Italian Cook Book appeared. More Classic Italian Cooking came out in 1978. Combined into one book, the two volumes became Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking which came out in 1992 and remains the authoritative resource for Italian cuisine. Hazan retired in 1998 and moved with Victor to Longboat Key, Florida but even then another cookbook was to follow (from which I have gratefully borrowed this post’s title). Marcella Says…Italian cooking wisdom from the legendary teacher’s master classes is the book that Hazan
decided to write when she could no longer find the type of authentic ingredients that came so easily to her in New York City.

marcellaIn a time when cooking shows are all the rage and people like Lidia, Mario, and Giada enjoy celebrity status, it might be difficult to comprehend the enormous impact that Hazan’s Essentials… had on the American culinary scene. Polenta, risotto, braised squid, and sauteed swiss chard were a revelation to palates long accustomed to the type of Italian-American cooking associated with spaghetti and meatballs and pizza. Along with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Hazan’s books revolutionized the way in which Americans ate and cooked. Though some of Hazan’s recipes are complicated, many more are incredibly simple. Take her recipe for Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. It consists of a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, an onion peeled and cut in half, butter, and salt. That’s all…no garlic, no crushed red pepper, no grated carrot or zucchini. You gently simmer for 45 minutes, put the sauce on cooked pasta, eat it, and (as someone who has made this sauce many times) become very, very happy. Hazan’s classic recipe for pork loin braised in milk is another favorite of mine for dinner parties. It looks and tastes complex but is actually as easy as can be (and absolutely delicious!).

cucinaAlso available at DCPL are Marcella’s Italian Kitchen  and Marcella Cucina, which won both a James Beard Award and a Julia Child Award in 1997.

For a moving tribute to Marcella Hazan and her influence, check out this piece written by David Sipress for the New Yorker.

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Oct 18 2013

Earthly pleasures…all year long

by Dea Anne M

As regular readers of this blog know, I am an enthusiastic, if still inexpert, gardener. I’ve posted here before about the four raised beds in my yard and I have to say that in the year-plus since that post I’ve learned a lot about the proper use of compost, the importance of weeding (even in raised beds), and what vegetables grow best in our climate. Over the weekend, I took out the last of the summer plants—tomatoes, pole beans, and spent tomatillos and went ahead with my plans for a fall/winter garden. The traditional view of gardening is that after the early fall harvest and clean-up, vegetable gardens sit fallow, usually under a blanket of pristine snow. Well, according to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map my zip code corresponds with Zone 8a which means that, with care, I should be able to grow something all year round. For the fall, I’m growing lettuces, radish, carrots, mustards, bok choy, turnips, and two varieties each of broccoli and spinach. I’m growing everything from seed so it will be awhile before I’ll start to see the results of my planting but I’m holding out hope for success. I’m especially curious to see what “Red Velvet” lettuce looks like as well as an heirloom variety of spinach called “Monstrueux de Viroflay” which I suppose translates as “monster of Viroflay.” It was developed in France in the 1800’s and the plants can supposedly grow to be up to two feet wide. We will see.

Are you interested in trying some year-round gardening? If so, you’ll find help with these resources from DCPL.

Eliot Coleman has long been acknowledged as a guru of year-round vegetable gardening and his book  The New Organic Grower’s Four Season Harvest: how to harvest fresh organic vegetables from your home garden all year long is considered a classic. The book came out in 1992 so it’s hardly new today but you’ll still find plenty of useful information within.

starterI’ve mentioned Barbara Pleasant’s Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 no-fail plans for small organic gardens on this blog before. This book remains an absolute gem for any gardener, new or veteran. I mention it again in the four season gardening context because many of the garden plans that Pleasant presents are tailored to specific climate patterns, such as our long, hot summers, with ideas of what to plant during the traditional “non-growing” season. Highly recommended.

idiotsThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Year-Round Gardening by Delilah Smittle and Sheri Ann Richerson includes information on growing flowers as well as fruits and vegetables. Topics include greenhouse gardening as well as traditional gardening and the authors even cover how to garden in your root cellar (not that many folks I know here in the Southeast have those). One element that I particularly appreciate about the authors’ approach is that they emphasize over and over the importance of soil quality. I have found through my years of gardening that starting with the best soil is the surest guarantee of quality results. Smittle and Richerson also provide expert guidance on starting seeds indoors—invaluable advice for any gardener who wants to grow a wider variety of vegetables for less money than one pays for starter plants or anyone who wants to experiment with heirloom varieties that are only available as seeds.

Finally, allow me to suggest two books that could very well provide you withtender the inspiration to grow your own. Both are cookbooks and both are penned by British authors. The first, Tender: a cook and his vegetable patch comes from Nigel Slater who wrote the wonderful memoir Toast: the story of a boy’s hunger. The second is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg: 200 inspired vegetable recipes. Fearnley-Whittingstall is a leading champion of the sustainable food movement in Britain whose books also include The River Cottage Fish Book. Both Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book and Slater’s feature wonderful writing, straight-forward recipes, and beautiful photography. Slater’s recipes are not necessarily vegetarian (though Fearnley-Whittingstall’s are) but either book will show you the stunning variety of delicious dishes that revolve around vegetables—whether you grow your own or not.

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Jul 10 2013

Rediscovered treasures

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog know that I am an avid reader of what I might term “culinary literature,” and I suspect that I am not alone with this fondness. Given the huge success of such books as Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, julieKitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it appears as though many people are interested in reading well-written books that touch on the ways that food intersects with life. Indeed, it seems that every week there’s a new culinary memoir or collection of essays on gastronomy that appears on the publishing horizon and that trend shows no current signs of stopping.

But what about the older treasures?   There is much pleasure in discovering, or rediscovering, the wonderful food writing of the past. This was brought home lambto me recently after reading (I might even say devouring) The Supper of the Lamb: a culinary reflection by Robert Farrar Capon. Ostensibly a cookbook, this literary gem is also about what it means to be human and fully in the world. Capon, an Episcopal priest combines theological and culinary insights in a quirky yet completely readable fashion. Yes, there are recipes here (and they look like good ones) but what truly captivates is Capon’s obvious joy in creation and his love of simple pleasures. First  published in 1969 and reprinted as part of the excellent Modern Library Food series, the book is as strange, moving, funny, and gorgeous today as it must have seemed when it first appeared. Highly recommended.

Samuel Chamberlain and his family lived an idyllic existence in France prior to WWII. When war appeared inevitable, Chamberlain’s company called him home to the small town of Marblehead, MA. Accompanying the family, was Clementine, the magically resourceful cook who had come to work for them. First published in 1943 under the nom de plume Phineas Beck, Clementine In the Kitchen is a charming and funny portrait  of the Chamberlain’s culinary adventures in France and the U.S. courtesy of the indomitable and always interesting Clementine.

I have long been an fervent admirer of the writing of M. F. K. Fisher and A Stew or a Story:  an assortment of short works contains some of her best stewpieces. I particularly enjoyed “Love In a Dish” and “Little Meals With Great Implications,” but all the essays in the collection display Fisher’s trademark wit and beautiful use of the language. Also, included are some of Fisher’s short fiction and travel articles. All in all, the book provides a fine introduction to one of the best writers America has ever produced.

Elizabeth David was an elegant and marvelous writer and though DCPL does not own her fine collection of magazine writing, An Omelet and a Glass of Wine, you will find her Elizabeth David Classics: Mediterranean Food, French country cooking, Summer cooking which collects in one volume three of her best known cookbooks: A Book of Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking, and Summer Cooking. Though this is a book of recipes, there is a wealth of David’s wonderful writing contained within, particularly in the prefaces to the chapters. David’s brief treatise on garlic in the French country cooking section alone is worth checking out this wonderful book. You probably won’t actually cook much from Elizabeth David Classics (David was notoriously inexact both in measurements and instruction) but it makes for marvelous reading.

A bit dated, the Compleat I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken still makes for entertaining reading. Ruth Eleanor “Peg” Bracken published the first I Hate to Cook Book in 1960 and it was an instant sensation. Heavy reliance on cans, packaged products, and short cuts goes against today’s  general belief that good cooking must always use the freshest, highest quality ingredients and preferably be a bit (or very) labor intensive. You’ll find no handmade pasta here and you certainly won’t learn how to remove the bones from a chicken without breaking the skin, but if you’re a beginning cook you’ll actually find some usable recipes. Everyone else can enjoy the witty writing, Bracken’s sly sense of the absurd and vintage illustrations by Hilary Knight. Knight is famous for illustrating Kay Thompson’s Eloise.

What are some of your rediscovered treasures?

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Jun 26 2013

June is National Soul Food Month

by Glenda

Soul_Food_DinnerSoul food originated in Africa and came to the United States with African slaves. Foods such as okra and rice, which are common in West Africa, were introduced to the Americas as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. These foods were dietary staples among the slaves. Foods such as corn from the Americas, turnips from Morocco and cabbage from Portugal would become staples in African-American cuisine. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible; they were given the scraps: pig ears, pig feet, ox tail, ham hocks, hog jowls, trip and skin of animals. The slaves developed dishes using the scrap parts and these dishes became a part of their daily diet. They used onions and garlic to add flavor and lard for baking and frying. In addition to the scrap animal parts they were given the small intestine of the pig, or chitterlings, which were a poor dish for Europeans during medieval times.

These cooking rituals would be passed on from generation to generation of African-Americans, and these recipes are alive and well even today. Of course these dishes are not prepared in the same manner as during slave times, but they have not changed a whole lot. For instance, chitterlings are prepared in African-American homes during the holidays every year. In my family, my mother, grandmother and aunts prepare chitterlings every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. Chitterlings are cooked with onions and garlic the same as the slaves, but are prepared in much nicer cookware and maybe with a little vinegar. Fried corn, a major staple in soul food, was introduced to the slaves by the Native Americans and continues to be a popular dish today. Other products made from corn, such as cornbread, grits, whiskey and moonshine are still a part of the African-American diet.

When I think of soul food, I think of Sunday dinners that include fried chicken, fried corn, macaroni casserole, collard greens, turnip greens, cornbread, fried pork chops smothered in gravy, black eyed peas, potato salad and sweet potato pie. I can smell these wonderful dishes right now. Some people say soul food is not exactly the food a person cooks; it’s that the person cooks from the heart. Personally I think the enslaved African women put their heart and soul into the food they were cooking for their families.

If you would like to cook some of these wonderful dishes, you should come to the library and check out African-American Kitchen: Cooking from our heritage by Angela Shelf Medearis, The Welcome Table: African-American heritage cooking by Jessica B. Harris, and Down Home with the Neely’s: A southern family cookbook by Patrick Neely.  Or for a lighter version of soul food try Healthy Soul Food Cooking by Fabiola Gaines.

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Feb 6 2013

African food heritage

by Dea Anne M

We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that during February we also celebrate African Heritage and Health Week? According to Oldways, the nonprofit food and education organization, February 1st – 7th is a time for celebrating African heritage by eating meals inspired by the traditional cooking of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the African American South. Numerous studies have shown that traditional diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans help to promote good health. I urge you to visit this very interesting website and learn more about the traditional food of Africa. You’ll find the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, information about African Diaspora cultures, tips on grocery shopping and setting up your kitchen, and my favorite feature “African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.” This is a list (with links) of restaurants in every state that serve African cuisine. Though it is by no means comprehensive (for example, no Ethiopian restaurants make the list for Georgia) it’s still a fun tool for those who want to dine out on African foods.

cuisineAre you interested in exploring African foods in your own kitchen? Check out these resources from DCPL.

Marcus Samuelsson is a world famous chef who was born to Ethiopian parents and adopted by a Swedish couple after the death of his mother. Raised in Sweden, he trained and apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York where he became the youngest chef to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant is Red Rooster in Harlem and his cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa (with Heidi Sacko Walters) was selected as the “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.

africaAlso take note of:

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