Displaying items by tag: memoirs
Come Home, It’s Suppertime Long Lost Lore of Cooking Traditions in 19th Century Kentucky
by LaVerne Martin Littleton
Bookstand Publishing, 2011
178 pp. $ 9.95 (paper)
Think back to visits to your grandmother’s house as a young person. Maybe you just dropped by for quick hello or even came to ask for copy of a favorite recipe. What you thought would be a 15 minute visit becomes a two hour conversation on family history, love of food and the impact of regional availability of fruits, vegetables and meats. The delight of hearing real, oral history from a beloved elder is priceless. Such is the feeling I got from reading Ms. Littleton’s short book on 19th Century Kentucky Cooking.
The first 36 pages are an engaging bit of storytelling of family, rural history and what it was like to grow up in Kentucky in past generations. Littleton’s style is relaxed, informative and filled with the dry wit of someone who has seen much change in their long life. While not essential to using this book as a guide to cooking very old traditional favorites of Kentucky, the stories and narratives are gems in their own right.
The remainder of Come Home, It’s Suppertime is filled with recipes for everything from Mint Julep to a Cherokee Yellow Jacket Soup! Common household utensils are used throughout the recipes, no Cuisinarts here! Just good old country, comfort foods are described in easy to follow steps from listing ingredients to final presentation.
My only criticism is the lack of an index for finding specific recipes. One must zero-in under larger groupings like “breakfast” or “seafood” and then peruse all the recipes to find what you may seek. That aside, it’s a gentle read with useable recipes and food for thought on a way of life, long gone, but not forgotten.
Reviewed by Michael Mallett. Michael is retired from a career with a fly-by-night airline. He lives with his wife and two dogs. Michael enjoys cooking, drinking great beers and enjoying good wine with friends in earnest conversation.
At Mesa’s Edge
At Mesa’s Edgeby Eugenia Bone
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN 0-618-22126-3Hard Cover, 330 pages, $24.
Eugenia Bone is a New York writer with heavyweight credentials (Saveur, Food & Wine, Gourmet, etc.). In At Mesa’s Edge she has created an intriguing memoir and cookbook.
When her architect husband decides that there’s room in their urban life for a part-time existence in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, Eugenia packs kids and cooking supplies to spend a summer in the West. Ranch property has been purchased, but it needs work. The theme may seem familiar, but who of us hasn’t daydreamed of moving—at least on a temporary basis—to someplace completely different? Crawford, Colorado isn’t Italy or southern France, but it might be as different from New York City as those locales.
In addition to tending sick children and rehabbing the long-abandoned ranch house, she must deal with snakes, skunks, feral cats and neighboring cattle wandering through her vegetable garden. As the newcomer ingratiates herself with the locals, she finds a substantial number who’re deeply food-conscious. The area has long been famed for its fruit production and seems to have a significant number of latter day specialty food producers.
Her recipes acknowledge shared experiences with newly-found Colorado friends and acquaintances, as well as the contributions of family and friends in New York who shaped her love for food and her cooking style. Marilee Gillman’s Tortilla Soup includes broth from her own pheasants, but chicken broth will suffice, says Bone. Asparagus Vinaigrette is a treatment of this basic vegetable dish as prepared by French-born Yvon Gros, who with his wife Joanna, runs the Leroux Creek Inn in Hotchkiss. Bone uses purchased asparagus stalks as well as wild examples found growing in area ditches. The recipe for Fettucine with Wild Mushrooms is from the author’s brother, Cham Giobbi, who discovered Porcinis growing wild in the nearby West Elk Mountains. Leek and Cilantro Pesto Tart is a recipe the author says she took to “a potluck winetasting at Ela Family Farms on Rogers Mesa.”
Bone’s intimate introductions to the recipes makes them seem all the more appealing. Anecdotes from the preceding narrative are in a style similarly personal. Bone’s recollection of little details when old Greek men barbecued lamb at the home of the uncle of her friend painted a vivid picture. Her story of taking a hunter safety class with 12-year old boys to qualify for a Colorado license was funny—and provided a window to a western ethos untroubled by political correctness.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke
The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry
The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry
by Kathleen Flinn
2008 Penguin Books
290 page $15.00
What person who enjoys cooking hasn't thought of attending a cooking school? An accomplished writer, Flinn was an American living in London when a job came to an end sooner than she had planned. Encouraged by her American boyfriend to take stock and consider following her dreams, she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2004. The Sharper Your Knife is her memoir of that experience.
Readers will get a peek into the life of a student at the world's most famous cooking school. Attentive readers will learn—at least from afar—some technique without the anxieties of actually facing chef instructors who may not have much patience for dilletantes and enjoy some recipes to apply them. Glimpses of an American expatriate's life in Paris and even some romance (the boyfriend, Mike) is thrown in. Fun. Easy to read, but not lightweight.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke
Julia Child A Life
Julia Child A Life
by Laura Shapiro
2007 Penguin Lives
185 pages $14
Many remember Julia Child from her PBS television shows. Others may know her as an older woman given great deference when appearing as a guest on more recent television programs. Still, the woman has been dead since August of 2004, so many food buffs and home cooks may not have heard about her at all, but for the recent Julia and Julie movie.
For readers in all these categories, Laura Shapiro's fond, but not fawning, biography, Julia Child A Life, is a treat. It traces the food maven's early life of privilege (reared in a prosperous family in Pasadena, California, Julia McWilliams attended the Katherine Branson School in Marin County, then went east to Smith College), her wartime travels and marriage to Paul Child and subsequent evolution to the French Chef persona recognized by American foodies.
Times were very different in the mid-1930's, even for educated young women. She found employment—at first in New York City and later in Southern California—but her pay was modest and the work apparently unsatisfying. With a world war pending, she applied for military services only to be turned down as her six feet two inch stature was deemed too tall by all branches. She was accepted by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to today's CIA. Apparently her duties were essentially clerical, but the assignments in exotic locales were a good deal more interesting than life as a department store advertising copywriter. In 1944 she was posted to Ceylon where she met a specialist in the office's visual presentation unit. Paul Child was sophisticated, experienced and soon smitten with Julia. Shapiro gives an intimate and sensitive recounting of the unfolding of their budding romance and subsequent married life.
After living for a time in post-war Washington, Paul and Julia Child moved to France in 1948 when he was transferred to Paris. Her interest in cooking blossomed and she learned—at first just by living in France and later with a somewhat contentious culinary education begun at the Cordon Bleu school. On her return to the United States, she realized how different was the life of the typical American homemaker in the 1950s. Her early attempts to write for these housewives were awkward and not immediately accepted by editors and publishers. She pushed on in an unusual combination of dedication to perfection and somewhat casual good nature. Eventually her perseverance led to a show on WGBH, Boston's public television station. Perhaps because her early shows were unpolished, her appearances were an immediate hit with viewers. She was real and her attitude seemed to say to them, “Come on. If I can do this, so can you.”
Did she ever drop a chicken on the television studio floor, retrieve it and continue prepping it for her audience? Apparently not, though some will swear they saw the show on which it happened. It's like that with larger-than-life personalities. I was fortunate to meet Julia after she had given a cooking demonstration at a winery. Even late in the afternoon of a long day it was obvious this older woman had a great zest for life. I wished I had known her years earlier. Laura Shapiro's biography fills in some of the blanks for such a fan.