We’ve received quite a few cookbooks and food-related books at the Dan’s Papers offices in recent months. Since we had a snowstorm every weekend for awhile there, I’ve been catching up on my reading. Here are some of the highlights of my confinement:
In my humble opinion the latest iteration of The Diner’s Dictionary, Word Origins of Food & Drink from Oxford University Press by John Ayto has one fatal flaw—the type is too dang small! As much as I enjoy all the “foodnut” details and the amusing perspective on American food culture as seen through the eyes of an Englishman, I can only read it in the late morning of a bright day. Whereas my husband is so taken with it he picks it up frequently over the course of an otherwise restful Sunday to spout trivia. I’m sure I’ll get through it eventually but, unless I can get a large print copy, it may leave me a bit bitter…though its many little gems like “Thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes,” (from Robert Greene’s Arcadia, 1589) are pretty sweet.
In an effort to get back to the basics of farming and gardening—which is safe to do when your confined inside your winter home—I picked up Get Your Pitchfork On! The Real Dirt on Country Living by Kristy Athens (Process Media, 2012). Athens lost the Washington State farm that she and her husband bought after a few years of roughing it—but it apparently left her with a wealth of advice for other aspiring ruralists. This book is rather encyclopedic and could well serve, as the author suggests, as a helpful addition to the cannon that includes the Reader’s Digest Back to Basics and The Whole Earth Catalogue. As someone who was born and raised in rural America but forbidden to learn how to milk a cow or use a chainsaw, I learned a lot from this tome. The lasting message for me being “There but for the grace of God, go I…”
Cooking Light Real Family Food, Simple & Easy Recipes Your Whole Family Will Love by Amanda Hass (Oxmoor House, 2012) has a lot to offer the home cook. Haas is the founder of One Family, One Meal, a website and movement that is very clear about it’s mission. There has never been any wisdom in limiting our next generation to “the four food groups” of mac n’ cheese, pizza, PB & J and chicken nuggets. (In point of fact no one should eat chicken nuggets, but I digress.) In this book Haas offers an impressive number of tasty, easy-to-prepare economical dishes. Handy color-coded symbols denote gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian dishes. There are also many easy-to-read notes on the many ways that kids can help prepare the meals.
The recipes are very clear and most use only ingredients that are readily available, even on the end of a narrow island. Many of the introductions are well written but I don’t think I’m being a snobby editor-type in sharing these two rather jarring sentences that appear side-by-side above a recipe for Chocolate-Butterscotch-Nut Clusters:
“My friend Denise and I have a terrible sweet tooth. The last time she made these, I was eating so many of them that I had to hide from my kids!” Kind of makes you go, “hmmm.”
Haas also advocates giving a child a glass of cow’s milk to drink. That’s so last century—but I suggest that you buy this book as a handy reference, the kind that will be splattered with food by many little helping hands. I’m off to King Kullen to pick up ingredients to try out Hass’s Creamy Garbanzo Dip with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Carrot-Ginger Soup and Baked Pita Chips!