Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Girls Just Want to Cook!

Ever since I discovered Calvin Trillin and M.F.K. Fisher, I've been a fan of foodie books. Trillin (Alice, Let's Eat, Third Helpings, etc.) writes about food humorously (actually, make that hilariously) and Fisher (Consider the Oyster, Serve It Forth, etc.) writes about it sensually.

My latest food read, Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl is an account through food of Reichl's early years -- from learning to cook because her manic-depressive mother was apt (inadvertently) to poison guests with her peculiar cooking to Reichl's stint as chef and later co-owner of a restaurant in Berkeley -- these are the early years of the woman who grew up to be the restaurant critic for The New York Times and later, editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine.

This isn't so much a foodie book as a memoir with food. And a beautifully done memoir -- the writing is wonderful; the insights, profound. There are a few recipes as well.

Closer to home is another charming memoir with food by Asheville resident Laurey Masterton, proprietor of Laurey's: Catering and Gourmet Comfort Food. Laurey too has had a long time relationship with food, spending her first twelve years at her parents' Blueberry Hill Farm -- a well known country inn in Vermont where she watched her mother turn out meal after delicious meal for the guests.

Laurey's book gives a fascinating behind-the scenes look at the ups and down of the restaurant and catering business, as well as a nostalgic glimpse back to the days in Vermont. It's also a beautifully done memoir of the little girl whose idyllic life at Blueberry Hill ended with the early deaths of her parents. There are also recipes, many from her mother's files (Mama's Sponge Cake with Sour Cream Sauce and Hot Blueberries sounds like a winner!) and others from her restaurant (Martha's Black Bean Cakes, Richard's Sweet Potato Salad -yum!)

But wait! There's more -- the Blueberry Hill Cookbook -- a reprint of the 1959 original, is just full of good things -- much of it just the sort of food I grew up with -- from chicken pie to cucumbers in sour cream to blueberry buckle. My mother didn't have a copy of this cookbook but she would have liked it a lot.

And so do I.

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Reader Wil said...

Thanks for this foodie post! I also used to like cooking, when I was first married, but lateron I was glad to have a meal ready every day. Now I often cook for several days and put the meals in the freezer.
Vicki, cannot you blog the automated creep somehow and ask help of blogger?

Pat in east TN said...

Sounds like some interesting books to me, especially the one by Laurey Masterton. I remember reading about her/hearing about her when we lived in that area, and I'm off to Amazon now to check out her book.

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Ok..that's it! I'm about to start round two of the YUK juice and haven't had one bit since Sunday night and it seems "food" is the post of the day! Angie at Gumbo Writer has meatloaf today and then I come here ...cookbooks! FOOD!

With friends like these.....LOL

Vicki Lane said...

Reader Wil, I like to cook extra and freeze for later also. While I like to cook, I also like Not to cook now and then. And re the automated creep, I feel sure Blogger would just tell me that's what comment moderation is for.

Pat, I don't know Laurey but have eaten of her food at several events she's catered. I also followed her blog of a cross-country bike trip -- she's a very interesting and personal writer -- I think you'd enjoy her book.

Carol, honey, just now you ought to stay away from blogs with words like Gumbo in their titles!

Amelia said...

Ahh, Ruth Reichl's writing consumed me for a couple of weeks last summer--as soon as I finished the last page of her first book, I was turning the 1st page of her second book and so on, I really couldn't escape her life. She has a new one out, Not Becoming My Mother, that I have in the queue and am very much looking forward to. I am fairly certain that there are few topics that enjoy reading more about than food, and people's relationship to food...must come from growing up around so many wonderful cooks! ;-)

Stephanie Faris said...

I realized not long ago just how much of each of my books revolve around eating and food. I feel like every scene, somebody's eating something. I've been trying to work on lessening that but maybe I should embrace it!

Vicki Lane said...

Amelia -- I have (and have devoured) COMFORT ME WITH APPLES. And I intend to read all the others! WHAT a good writer she is!

Welcome, Stephanie -- I too have a lot of food in mmy first two books. (One reader accused me of writing 'tomato porn' in one. I love to write about food but have downplayed it, not wanting my mysteries categorized as cozies. But people love reading about food and the way these folks write about it is inspiring.

I checked out your blog -- you write romance and women's fiction, right? What are you currently working in?

Star said...

There is something very comforting about reading books about food, isn't there. I suppose it has to do with food being given as a gift of love. We all crave love and we all crave food. The books you describe seem very different to the ones we would have over here in England and I know I would enjoy them because the food is also unfamiliar to me. I love learning about new things.
Blessings Star

Kaye Barley said...

I'm one who just loves reading about food. I just recommended a favorite cookbook to Sam, which I may have already mentioned to you . . .
Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide To Hosting the Perfect Funeral - are you familiar with it? love it!
And I am wild about MFK Fisher's writing. Now I'm on a hunt for the Blueberry Hill Cookbook! sounds terrific!!

Vicki Lane said...

Hi, Star -- I have a few English cookbooks (one with recipes from the writer Barbara Pym, tying them to her various book) and have enjoyed trying things I've read about like Toad in the Hole (yumm!) and Bubble and Squeak.

Kaye, I need to get that book! Southern funeral food is SO good. You remember I had a funeral feast in my last book and your Kahlua cake was there.