Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


REVIEW by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories
by Barbara M. Walker
Harpercollins, 1989
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 978-0064460903

For Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, The Little House Cookbook is a no-brainer, must-have, geek fest. As a Laurafan, I’ve been salivating over Ma’s vanity cakes and sourdough biscuits since 1972, pining for those heart-shaped cakes sprinkled in white sugar. The cookbook chapters often feature a quote and an original illustration by Garth Williams from the “Little House” series. Even the font and point size are the same as the books. Comfort and nostalgia abound.

An admitted “Bonnethead,” I read with the intention of holding a pioneer-themed dinner party. My first pass made me think that Ma Ingalls was not just being modest when she said, “Hunger is the best sauce.” Salt pork, cornmeal, and codfish aren’t exactly kitchen staples of the Barefoot Contessa. Laura Ingalls Wilder always had the knack of making lettuce with a sprinkle of vinegar and sugar sound like black truffle risotto, but her local supply store, The Loftus General Store of De Smet, South Dakota, wasn’t exactly Whole Foods. I wanted the fun of a pioneer meal and food that people would enjoy.

What I discovered, while looking for recipes that wouldn’t give my guests heart disease, was a fascinating read. The author, Barbara Walker, not only knows how to cook, she is a food historian—her bibliography is four and a half pages long. In each chapter, she locates recipes within their historical context and explains every ingredient. We all know that women cooked over an iron stove, but did you know that they didn’t have baking soda? I learned that tomatoes were not sweet until the turn of the century, and that Laura (who became a renowned poultry farmer) lived to see “poultry raising change from a gentlemen’s sport and farm wife’s pocket money to two separate industries, egg production and meat production.” Today, poultry farmers use different breeds for “layers” versus “fryers.”

Laurafans will love how Walker takes on recipes that demonstrate Ma’s resourcefulness during lean times. She recreates the Green Pumpkin Pie Ma baked when there were no apples to be found. Blackbirds decimating the corn crop? There’s Ma, rebounding with Blackbird Pie. (Now Blackbirds are endangered, so Walker recommends substituting the new aviary pest, Starlings). She explains how to bake “Long Winter” bread, which the Ingalls family subsisted on during eight months of prairie blizzards. I admit that while reading about these recipes I probably wasn’t going to make them, but I did enjoy thinking about making them.

The Little House Cookbook is fun to read, but America’s Test Kitchen taught me that the key to a useable cookbook, versus a pretty one, is that the recipes actually work. Walker gets giant kudos for writing up the recipes so that you can recreate them. For each dish, she first describes how a pioneer would have prepared the food, and then details how to adapt these recipes to the modern kitchen. One of my favorite quotes comes from the recipe for Stewed Jackrabbit with Dumplings, “If you can’t find a hunter to give you a skinned rabbit (he will want the pelt), look for a farm-raised rabbit at a German butcher shop. (Hasenpfeffer is a favorite German dish).” Thus, I learned a little more about pioneer life and German culinary culture.

As for my party, I had my fantasies. Roast Suckling Pig. Mincemeat Pie. Husk Tomato Preserves. In the end, I used only one of Walker’s recipes to the letter, the iconic Apples ‘n’ Onions. For everything else, I cheated. I used baking soda for my cornbread and biscuits. I put out a plate of fried bacon instead of subjecting my guests to Salt Pork (kind of gross). I tried to remain true to the pioneer spirit by shopping at the Farmer’s Market for jellies, butternut squash and berries. I opened a jar of homemade watermelon rind pickles given to me by a friend’s mother. After slaving over my brand new Whirlpool, self-cleaning gas oven all day, I had an appreciation for Ma and what she went through with her black iron cookstove. In the end, I like to think she would have approved of my ability to work with what I could find. I have no doubt that if Ma could have run down to Kroger for a ham instead raising, butchering, and curing the meat herself, she would have been all over it.

November 21, 2011