I confess: I am a cookbook junkie. I collect them, and I read them like favorite novels, over and over again. I try recipes, and, when it comes to dinner, I've had a lot of successes and a few outright bombs -- especially because if you look up "picky eaters" in the dictionary, you'll find pictures of my husband and of my son. Nevertheless, I keep picking up cookbooks and keep experimenting, increasingly with my 10 y.o. daughter, Petunia, who can make better stir-fry than I can! My favorite place to find the cookbooks which inspire our experiments is at our local library's monthly used book sale, where I've picked up some of my favorites, like a couple of cookbooks from the renowned vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. (If you're ever anywhere near there, it's a must-eat!) Leafing through The Earthbound Cook, I conjured up thoughts of Moosewood a lot. In both books, there's the same gentle caring for the earth and its resources pervading almost every page, and I really enjoy that, in part because of growing up on my family's farm. These kinds of earth-friendly cookbooks translate cooking from something necessary to do to feed a family into an act of love for everything going into the meal production, from the farmer who provided the crops through the chemistry of their cooking until the consumption by our loved ones. I once heard a blogger read a piece (many apologies for forgetting where, when and who!) called something like "I cook because I love." My family may not always love my cooking, but they never doubt its provinence in my heart.
Since I do find it hard to please everyone at mealtime, oftentimes, I bake and I bake. I can say with unusual confidence that I can bake anything, and I can modify just about any recipe to make it wheat-free. But I do love it when I come across recipes that I don't have to modify and that my entire family gobbles up, and that's what happened with the cranberry-walnut granola clusters pictured above. In fact, I've baked four batches since receiving the book a month ago. After I baked the first one, my husband ate it all in two days. Since the man eats very little good-for-you food, the clusters were a big win; and so I doubled the next three batches! There are a lot of great recipes to love in this cookbook; the yam-squash casserole is going to be on my table for Thanksgiving, as are one of the salads (I have yet to pick) and perhaps another dessert from this book or from its predecessor, "Food to Live By," which I picked up at the Earthbound Farm stand at Green Fest this year. I haven't read it enough (or experimented enough with its recipes) to know if I enjoy that one as much as "The Earthbound Cook," but it does look quite promising, especially as it includes tales of the start of Earthbound Farm.
So, getting back to that cookbook collection, now expanded by two of Myra Goodman's gems, my recent acquisitions include an Atherton Dames cookbook from 1970 and a Sunset Magazine Dinner party cookbook from 1974. Both have a lot of recipes for aspic, emphasis on "ick." I'm always searching for yet earlier ones, but those ones, from right around when I was born (1973) are enjoyable to me because I can get a sense for what was on people's dinner table in that time. To me, food paints a picture of a place in time and holds so many memories. What I wouldn't give for another bowl of my great-grandmother Mae's potato soup with riffles! I can remember where I sat when I ate my last bowl of it over twenty years ago. Someday, I hope that my kids go through my cookbooks, seeing how I've annotated recipes that worked and ones that didn't, and remember, like the taste of my great-grandma's soup, the taste of love.
So tell me: what does love taste like to you, and in what cookbook can I find it?
I always add a note on whether or not I'd recommend this book. Absolutely! I haven't tried enough of the recipes to promise that it'll change your family's eating lifestyle drastically or anything like that, but I have read it cover to cover a few times and promise that it'll inspire you to think more deeply about the sourcing of your food and also about some pretty magical creations that lie in the pages. I think it'd make a great gift for someone who enjoys to cook.
Disclaimer: In the From Left to Write book club, we read books together and then write blog posts inspired by them, not reviewing the works but, rather, responding to them with our own writing. For participation in the club, I receive the books for free but do not receive other compensation nor do I commit to writing favorably about the books. The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.