From Publishers Weekly
Readers familiar with Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will find what may be the secret ingredient of her success in this collection of tear- and laughter-provoking vignettes with 73 savory recipes. Here's Angelou's grandmother's Chicken and Dumplings, Crackling Corn Bread and Caramel Cake. Big brother Bailey makes a mean batch of Smothered Pork Chops and knows how to stretch them for a week's worth of meals. Mother, who "cooked wonderful meals and was very poignant about how to present them," can make a Roasted Capon play second fiddle to Red Rice. As the wider world beckons, Angelou dines. Sometimes she's the worker; having passed herself off as an experienced Creole cook, she becomes one with her Braised Short Ribs. Other times, she's the hostess serving what M.F.K. Fisher pronounces "the first honest cassoulet I have eaten in years." A batch of spoon bread nets Angelou a job and compliment: "If you can write half as good as you can cook, you are going to be famous." She does, and the food world widens (tamales, paté, minestrone, chachouka), and the fellow diners often have famous names (Oprah, Jessica Mitford, Rosa Guy). The food remains delectable and comfortable, and Angelou's directions are minimal but clear enough for experienced cooks. Color photos not seen by PW.
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Angelou has feasted at both ends of the food spectrum and everywhere in between. Her appreciation of good food has given her stamina and has enriched the texture of her days. In this memoir of significant meals, the poet recalls her grandmother's ironic discovery that rich folks relished wilted lettuce while she was investing in ice to keep her greens crisp. In another recollection, Angelou recalls her brother Bailey's advice on how to stretch a pork chop or two into enough different meals to please even her ravenous young son. As Angelou's renown swells, so does her purse, and before long she's sitting down to tables where nothing is impossible. Humble beef stew becomes beef Wellington and lemon meringue pie elegant eclairs. But Angelou's savoring of well-made food is a single continuum. Her recipes for favorite dishes derive from traditions as diverse as the origins of menudo, minestrone, spoon bread, tomato souffle, and hog head cheese. Angelou's fans curious about their hero's appetites will find tasty satisfaction here. Mark Knoblauch
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