- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (May 12, 1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394732154
- ISBN-13: 978-0394732152
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Taste of Country Cooking Paperback – May 12, 1976
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From the Inside Flap
The recipes and reminiscences of the American country cooking Lewis grew up with some 50 years ago. A richly evocative memoir of a lost time and a practical guide to recovering its joys in your own kitchen.
About the Author
Edna Lewis died on February 6, 2006, at the age of eighty-nine. This commemorative edition contains a new preface from her editor, Judith Jones, and a foreword by Alice Waters. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This is one of those special books combining two of my main reading interests: American history and cooking. Ms. Lewis has the book divided into chapters like meals; e.g. breakfasts, lunches and dinners, all occurring within the major season subheads. This makes perfect sense after you read the book and understand her emphasis on eating by the season. All Americans used to do this, but with modern transportation and food preservation, it doesn't exist anymore.
Over the past twenty-five years I think I've made just about every recipe in the book, and all of them can be recommended. I am a fan of Southern cooking and hers is certainly authentic.
That this book is still available is testament to its worth. It still makes for excellent reading and cooking, twenty-five years on.
I always find a great irony in the modern trend toward local, seasonal cuisines, since this approach is not new, but a rediscovery of the way people HAD to eat before modern preservation techniques and global food distribution systems. So, in this book, we see the Alice Waters approach, crafted 120 years before Chez Panisse in Virginia.
True to this spirit, the book is written by both season and by type of meal, starting with spring and working its way around the calendar through summer, autumn, and winter. Since all recipes are given within the context of a meal, we get a set of dishes which go together simply because they were based on the ingredients grown on their Freetown farms.
The fact which makes this book more of a culinary `source document' than a reference for ready-made recipes is the fact that all the recipes are written exactly as they were done fifty or more years ago with a coal stove and oven and few kitchen gadgets. Not only are the recipes done in the style of rural Virginia, many of the source materials are simply not available today or not readily suitable to a modern urban kitchen. The very first recipe, for example, calls for a forequarter of mutton, which I suspect you may have some trouble finding. I know I can find a lamb's shoulder at the local farmer's market, but true mutton, in 10 to 12 pound chunks, may be a bit hard to come by.
Even the bread making is done in a very countrified manner, using a sponge developed overnight, but without relying on wild yeasts, so it's a cross between the typical modern method and the European artisinal method, relying on a very large crock to develop the sponge.
Many of the ingredients are also literally gathered from the wild, with some literally being harvested but one step removed from road kill. One example is when a rabbit or quail falls victim to the plough, it is immediately dressed to hang and cure for dinner in a day or two.
Since this is a chronicle of an actual cuisine, it also has a lot more different types of preparations than you will find in a more conventional cookbook. It has recipes for all sorts of oatmeal, jams, coffee, iced tea, breads, and gravies. It even goes so far as to give an authentic recipe for separating hominy from field corn. Shades of `The Whole Earth Catalogue' and the hippie counterculture!
So, unlike Ms. Lewis' collaboration with Scott Peacock, `The Gift of Southern Cooking', this will not be in the running for the definitive work on `Southern Cooking'. Instead, it is much more important as a source for such a reference `for the rest of us'.
Overall, a very important cookbook for anyone interested in food in general.
One of my favorite things about "A Taste of Country Cooking" is the layout: it is divided by the different seasons and subdivided within those categories by meal (i.e. breakfast, dinner, supper). Because of this display style Lewis was able to relate intimate details of how food for that season was prepared; in that time the food people cooked depended largely on what was ripe in the garden and what kind of meat was available during that time of year etc.
A favorite section of mine is the one located in the spring section of her book when she relates how all the men in her community would gather together to slaughter their hogs; it was fascinating reading about that process, so many methods such as these have been lost over the generations. Her book captured a slice of a forgotten time and allowed me a glimpse into the past.
I used this cookbook for the first time when I was looking for a recipe for Johnny Cake (a sweet thin cornbread) because I couldn't find my mothers' recipe. I decided to alter the spoon bread recipe (since the ingredients were similar) and see if it could double for Johnny Cake as well. It turned out perfectly; in my eyes the mark of a good recipe is its versatility and hers more than met my criteria. Every recipe I've tried in "A Taste of Country Cooking" has been excellent. Her recipe for spoon bread when unaltered comes out just right: tangy (from the buttermilk), moist but not too dense, buttery without being overly rich; it's the perfect compliment to a dinner of pork roast or ham with fresh vegetable sides, her mother would probably have served green beans and new potatoes as an accompaniment.
My grandmother was the epitome of an old fashioned southern cook; she made fried okra, pork-chops, biscuits and gravy with tomatoes, purplehull peas, and
cornbread - in short if it was traditional old south she made it. Even though Edna Lewis and my grandmother came from different regions of the south (Virginia and Arkansas respectively) there are many similarities in the type of foods prepared and also the method of preparation. Edna Lewis's cook book "A Taste of Country Living" is full of authentic southern recipes, if you're interested in cooking old south or for the history in the book alone, I would recommend it as a worthy addition to your personal library.