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cookbooks!

Native:

Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons.  This is not strictly a cookbook, nor is it by a writer who identifies as Indigenous.  Rather, it is a famous underground piece of writing by a wild-foods forager here in North America (he famously did a Grape-Nuts cereal TV ad in the 1970s, asking, ‘Did you know many parts of a pine tree are edible?’ ) It’s a great travelogue through Indigenous subsistence fare by a man who loves wild food and explains it well.

Colonial

Cooking in Old Salem, by Winston B. Spurgeon- a beautiful gift-shop paperback from the 1980s- fireplace cooking, Moravian baked-goods, lots of good history & period-food.

Groundbreaking publications (19/20Centuries)

Real French Cooking, with Outstanding Recipes From Other Countries.  The mid-century classic by the Brilliant Savarin, AKA Brillat-Savarin.  Belongs in your French section, along with Julia, and Simca Beck.

Classic American

Big Valley Amish Cook-Book, a Cookbook from Kishacoquillas Valley.  A thousand recipes from the Heartland and the 1970s.  You will find everything from 10 versions of Shoo-Fly Pie, to 2 versions of Happiness Cake (look that one up on the web).  Also a section on one-dish meals, various jell0-salads; and real heritage recipes, including hickory nut icing.  This is what one well-fed population of Pennsylvania Amish farm families ate for some generations, and they evidently ate well.

Comprehensive  Cuisine

The Africa Cookbook, Tastes of a Continent, by Jessica B. Harris could also appear under the World Food category here.  But this book is breathtaking in its scope- it really spans an entire continent, and it is a wonderful starting point for a newcomer to African cuisines.

Vegetarian

Can’t ignore New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, by the Moosewood Collective.  It’s an oldie but a goodie- and it’s not strictly ovo-lacto.  They do include an array of fish/seafood recipes- so it’s definitely not a vegan affair.

Baking

The Italian Baker, by Carol Field.  From yeast to quick breads, from savory to sweet, this is one of those big juicy cookbooks that is just fun to read, even if you don’t actually try any of the recipes.  There are line-drawings inside (a la James Beard), the lay-out is lovely and the perspective is very complete.

World Food

A brand new find from an estate sale:  The East European Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.  This book is authentic, authoritative & appeared almost 40 years ago.  No photos in this book either- only text- but you almost want to eat the book itself, the recipes are so gorgeous to read.  I can’t wait to start cooking from it.

Reference

The Cook’s Dictionary and Culinary Reference, by Jonathan Bartlett.  I have a paperback version of this title, and it is like a telephone book.  I have a few other big, giant culinary reference books, and it is useful to have a selection of them for cross-reference.  You want to know the history of honey in one page, what a hogplum is, or a one-paragraph synopsis of what Hollandaise Sauce is all about?  This is 500 alphabetical pages of exactly that kind of interesting information.

Desserts

1001 Cookies, by Gregg R. Gillespie.  An American cookie aficionado has produced the logical next step after the beloved 101-ways to cook a chicken-type format.  Yes, it is 1001 recipes, there is a colorful photo of each cookie.  This guy must have been baking cookies for years.  Some of the recipes are transparently similar, with slightly different names, or one or two different ingredients.   There are  quite a number of treasures if you are patient.   But he does surpass 1000 cookies, which is indisputably impressive.

Food Writers

Well, this is presented by the Countess of Toulouse-Latrec:  Chez Maxim’s, Secrets and Recipes from the Wold’s Most Famous Restaurant.  Does it belong on the coffee table or the kitchen table? it’s so beautiful & full of history.  Most importantly, you can reproduce Maxims Souffle’ au Fromage.

Quirks

Hors D’Oeuvres, by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell.  A big, colorful walk through top-drawer finger foods from the 1990s.  None of these starters have gone out of style, the advice on service and production is timeless & excellent; and this was another estate sale find, at a small mansion in Minneapolis last weekend.

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I can’t remember the first time I made green tomato pickles, or why.  It might have been 10-15 years ago, but I make them in some form or another almost every autumn.  I usually make green tomato mincemeat (my great-grandmother’s recipe) every fall, too.

They can be sweet or not, and they are simple & good, either way.  This year I made them a little sweet.

Use 2 or 3 medium green tomatoes and slice them into medium wedges.  In a cooking pan combine 2-1/2 cups of water, a cup of white vinegar and 2 tbsp of salt. Boil altogether with a tbsp of pickling spice, 1/4 cup of sugar and some skinned & sliced fresh ginger, not quite as big as your thumb.  Or probably more accurately, my thumb.

Now place the green tomatoes, 1/2  a thinly sliced, small purple onion and the pickling liquid in a non-reactive container (that means non-aluminum).  Use stainless steel, pyrex/glass or ceramic.  Allow it all to come to room temperature & then refrigerate, submerged under a small plate & covered with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate & forget about it for a few days, and then you will have a tart-sweet traditional pickle that will make all your meals special.  This pickle will remain sound & good for 2 weeks in your refrigerator without heat-canning.  Good luck, if you and yours can make it last for that long.

And now for a real country food favorite- but  I make it in the city too.  You’ve heard of Fried Green Tomatoes-  “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” a novel by Fannie Flagg, appeared 1987.  It was so popular it was made into a movie simply called Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Jessica Tandy.  You can read the novel (which I haven’t) or see the movie (which I recommend highly); but make this dish from classic American cookery regardless.  There’s nothing easier, so don’t be intimidated if you’ve never tried to make it before.  I was in my 40’s the first time I made it, because no one in my family had made it when we were growing up.  It doesn’t matter if you call them to-MAY-toes or to-MAH-toes.  Let’s call the whole thing on.

Get you some cornmeal and a little cajun spice, if you have it.  You could season a generous 1/2 cup of blue, yellow or white cornmeal with 1 tsp of cajun seasoning, Old Bay or just a little salt and pepper to taste.  It would be hard to mess up the dredge- spread it out on a plate or a pie pan, and then beat your egg in a separate bowl, maybe with a splash of tabasco.  Heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy 9″ skillet over medium-high heat until it is shimmering-hot, and season it with a spoonful of bacon fat if that sounds good to you.  (Or just make it all bacon drippings if that sounds even better to you, or if you want to make this very regionally authentic.)

Cut up one (or more) gorgeous, firm green tomato into about 1/2″ slices – dip in the egg and then dredge in the seasoned cornmeal.  Carefully allow the dipped and dredged tomato slices to repose in the hot fat & turn over only after they have become irresistibly brown- this is probably no longer than a minute or 2.  Repeat for as many slices of green tomato as you have.  Don’t deep fry these.

These require no other kind of condiment- fried green tomatoes are like bananas- they are a perfect food.

If you click on any of these photos, they will appear larger.