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Make this one a daily use cookbook -- here are the details!
on June 16, 2008
Jane Riley is a pen name for Mary Lou Cheatham. "Jane" has garnered recipes from her lifetime of cooking, mostly from family members and friends, to compile this omnibus cookbook. "Flavored with Love" is additionally punctuated with a nostalgic overview of the Louisiana and Mississippi regions, and its people, in particular. One will even come across the occasional poem which much lightens the text. While the author clearly has a religious cultural background, given certain Biblical quotations found throughout the work, she hasn't hedged on the occasional and moderate use of alcohol-based ingredients where they are appropriate and where they ultimately benefit the quality of particular recipes such as fruitcake and tailgater watermelons.
One of my first observations is that this volume can be one of your top ten cookbooks; however, I'm also compelled to say that it's much more than a "recipe book". Here, we have a cookbook which can be read like a good novel. In addition to the recipes, this work is bulging with fun and interesting stories originally conveyed by friends and associates of the author, including culinary tips and territorial folklore of the culturally-notable Mississippi-Louisiana region.
As to my own culinary qualifications to evaluate this work, you can read about them at my profile site, but I can tell you that, at present, I cook from scratch every day and I'm eternally in search of high-quality recipes which I can serve up to my spoiled family, friends, and neighbors. They are spoiled because I feed them only the finest of dishes, generated from the best recipes, all concocted from the freshest (except for my balsamic vinegar!) and the best ingredients available.
"Flavored with Love" includes 320 pages of easy-to-read, large-print text and the reader can expect one or more recipes on about every other page. These recipes are generally each tenoned with a brief story either from or about its respective originator. Here are some reasons why I particularly like this cookbook:
1. The print is large and easy to read while you're cooking. There are over 300 recipes herein. The exterior dimensions are 8 ½" x 11," and it's three-quarters of an inch thick.
2. The binding is soft cover and the book lies open nicely. The cover is shiny and slick and can be wiped free of stains and spills with a damp cloth.
3. The ingredients are mostly common fare, easy to obtain and many are already present in any well-stocked refrigerator, cabinet, and/or pantry.
4. A few recipe ingredients are specific in that the name brand is listed, ergo "Rudy's Farm(tm) Sausage," (page 69), a key component for "Rice Rushing". While I do not have local access to this particular product, I recognize that the author was desirous to convey that a high-quality sausage is called for, so I can simply go out and buy our best local brand, Bob Evans(tm), for this recipe and enjoy full confidence that the end result will meet the standard of the original dish.
5. The short stories and biographies of the recipe authors break up the monotony which comes of reading one recipe after another and also provide some great cooking tips and some occasional levity.
6. I particularly savor this book for what it is NOT... that would be a compendium of "made-up" supposedly old-time recipes which purport to be from "the [Appalachian] mountain people," or "the Cajuns," or from any other group of an ethnically significant culture. Yes, many of these recipes do in fact come from such folks but these people either are or were (many have passed on) real people and these are undoubtedly some of their top recipes. When one runs across cooking activity described utilizing action verbs such as "sopping," "scrunch," "daub," and "whop," you know that you're reading The Real McCoy! This work is clearly not some slick publishing device where the recipes have been gleaned and assembled from the internet, ultimately to be marketed as some manner of culturally historic dishes.
7. While "Flavored with Love" is a sort of regional cookbook, the recipes are still diverse enough to keep this volume ready at hand as a general cookbook as well, which one can use on a daily basis.
8. The ultimate test of any cookbook goes directly to the quality of the recipes. Having received my copy quite recently, the first recipe I tried was the meatloaf, (page 29). Having tested and reviewed many cookbooks in the past, I have discovered that "the meatloaf recipe" in any culinary guide is typically a great measuring device by which one can gauge the appurtenant dishes found in that same cookbook. And this one is a simple, but superb, meatloaf. I also made up a batch of the "Come Back Sauce," (page 112), a unique and delicious approach to salad dressing, just terrific. I've read every recipe in here and I'm confident that they're all as solid as the two which I have tried so far.
While there are no photographs of the dishes, I didn't find that this diminished the book in any sense because the instructions are very detailed and clear. There is also no table of contents but the well-organized, detailed, and lengthy index will guide readers quickly to any recipe which he or she is seeking.
The reader will find a great variety of dishes for all tastes. Some recipes are unique, ("Mustard Fried Venison," page 49; "Mirliton Casserole," page 190); some are hard-to-find recipes, ("Pimento Cheese Spread," page 148; "King Cake," page 244); and, a number of these recipes are simply tons of fun in which your children can be involved in helping you to prepare them, ("Orange Sherbet," page 63; Popcorn Balls," page 37).
There are certain people who would particularly benefit from having a copy of "Flavored with Love". I would especially recommend this cookbook to you if...
...you have children and not a lot of money to feed them.
...you're in a "cooking rut" and everything seems to taste the same lately.
...you have a farming family.
...you are new to cooking (newlyweds) and wish to learn both good and essential culinary techniques.
...you have an angler or hunter in your family who shows up with his or her fish and game, expecting you to prepare it.
...you have a garden which includes tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, and/or okra growing in it.
...you or your family savor Cajun, Creole, or Tex-Mex dishes.
...you collect useful and interesting cookbooks.
...you are a fiend for desserts!
In summary, "Flavored with Love" is an intelligently-written, utilitarian cookbook for busy people who enjoy great-tasting food. In my effort to evaluate this work as a general cookbook, one which the average cook can use everyday to turn out meals for a family, I simply asked myself, "If you had to live on only the recipes found in this book, could you do it?" The answer is a resounding, "Yes"... and you could live well!