A visiting friend and I got to talking about cooking and cookbooks. I showed him my latest darling--a Gullah-Geechee cookbook that, aside from tempting recipes, offers a glimpse into that particular Low Country culture. And then I realized how much I love cookbooks that present a culture or way of life through food.
I've read and re-read Rick Bragg's book and blogged about it HERE.
Edna Lewis's lyrical prose takes us back to the rural Black community of her childhood, with menus and dishes suited to the seasons and their celebrations.
I inherited these two from my mother--who made good use of both. Clementine in the kitchen is full of classic French recipes, suitable for the American kitchen. It's also the story of the Beck family in France, pre-WWII, their amazing cook Clementine, and her adjustment to America and its food when she accompanied the family back to New England.
Cross Creek Cookery is a glimpse at old Florida before it was ruint by The Mouse and way too many people. Hushpuppies and tangerine sherbet and all manner of good things to eat.
And one more good un HERE.
I did go back in time to your President's Cookbook! All of these are wonderful sounding.
My favorite cookbook is still a very old book of southern recipes. When my copy started falling apart, Jerry searched used book outlets until he found another. That book has recipes for southern cornbread dressing and pecan pie and candied sweet potatoes that cannot be surpassed.
I read cookbooks more than I cook from them (do very little cooking nowadays, really, although I'm trying to get back into it). Nevertheless, I do have a tidy little collection of them, including a Sherlock Holmes cookbook as written by Mrs Hudson (it had a recipe for "Dog That Barked in the Night Chocolate Chip Droppings" cookies; I'd be more particular in citation, but have mislaid my copy), several vegetarian ones, and a few for making up Japanese bento box meals. These days, however, I tend to view a lot of recipe videos, like Chef John's Food Wishes or Beryl Shereshewsky's forays into international cuisines.
If you're interested in historical cooking, however, like your presidential cookbook, I heartily recommend to your attention the "Tasting History with Max Miller" channel on YouTube. Every Tuesday, he presents a recipe from books as old as Apicius's (5th century CE) and, while the dish is cooking, presents a short history relevant to that dish. Interesting, educational, and his presentation is charming. And, yes, he did do syllabub in one of his earliest recipes.
I like very much cookbooks that reflect a culture and teach me a lot from the inside. That's why Ottolenghi is such a favorite, "Jerusalem" particularly, with his stories of Jerusalem and its varied peoples and cultures, and foods, written by an Arab and a Jew together, friends sharing traditional knowledge from home. It's nutritious just to read, let alone cook from, though I've done both.
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