Country Kitchen: Foods We Glean From Books

Country Kitchen: Foods We Glean From Books


By Mary Emma Allen

As I dined with two other authors in the courtyard of a historic restaurant (complete with resident ghost) in St. Augustine, Florida recently, our talk turned to food and books, and the recipes we glean through our reading. One of the authors and I had been involved in a cookbook project where contributors chose recipes mentioned in their books or associated with the era or setting of the story.

Think of books you've read recently, or favorite ones over the years. What recipes were described or brought to mind? If the recipes weren't given, did the description of the food send you searching for a recipe?

Recipes in My Reading

I recently finished a mystery set on a reservation in the Wind River area of Wyoming. One of the foods mentioned in Margaret CoelÂ’s "The Eagle Catcher," was fry bread.

I'd sampled this bread at a rendezvous in Utah, made on site by a vendor. It was tasty and I wondered if this was the same as that mentioned in this book. This bread also sometimes is called Fried Bread or Squaw Bread.

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories With some books, especially series of books, a cookbook will be developed around the foods described there. While reading the Little House on the Prairie series, you'll note the many foods LauraÂ’s family cooked.

From this has evolved the "Little House Cookbook," frontier foods from Laura Ingalls WilderÂ’s classic stories, by Barbara M. Walker. In addition to actual recipes of foods from those days, Ms. Walker describes some of the food history of that era.

This morning I was reading a childrenÂ’s book, "Ghost Next Door" by Wylly Folk St. John. The narrator, a young girl of thirteen, mentions Miss Judith offering her and her friend a tall frosted glass of lemonade.

If you're reading this on a hot day, it could make you search for a recipe so you could make some, too. Due to the setting (a southern town) and Miss JudithÂ’s age, the lemonade probably was made from fresh lemons, not from concentrate or from a carton.

Foods for Quilting Bee

In my book, "The Magic of Patchwork," I tell about the quilting bee, a tradition for early quilters. While this book contains no recipes, I began to think about the foods the ladies might have served for lunch. Or what did they prepare for supper, when the menfolk joined for a social occasion?

In the cookbook, I included an excerpt about the quilting bee and my grandmotherÂ’s recipe for Creamed Potatoes, an easy-to-make, yet tasty old-fashioned dish.

FRY BREAD usually is associated with the Native American heritage, a variation of some of their corn meal and acorn meal cakes, developed after the white men brought along their iron kettles, wheat flour, and leavening.

Mix together 4 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water to form a still dough. Roll out onto floured board; cut into rectangles and fry in deep fat until the dough puffs up and browns. .

The fry bread I had at the rendezvous was sprinkled either with cinnamon/sugar (a Mexican influence) or powdered sugar. This makes a dessert bread. With a meal, you'd probably want it without the additional sugar.



(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at me.allen@juno.com

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