Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Books for Foodies

I got a notice in the mail of a sale at a thrift shop I wasn't familiar with, so I went to check it out. Out front was a big sign, "Free Books, No Limit".


One can never have too many books. I cruised through titles and found a luscious hardback in yellows and oranges..."Consuming Passions: A food-obsessed life," by Michael Lee West. I took it home and devoured (no pun intended) half the book before stopping to breathe. I love books that can transcend time like that. Authors who are also chefs or foodies...books that talk about regional food, culture, trends, history, or just plain old-fashioned cookbooks....these are all good reading.

Cookbooks, well, I've loved those since Jane Nowell gave me "The Betty Crocker Kid's Cookbook" for my second grade birthday. But my love of food-related writing only started a couple of years ago when I was cashiering, and a customer recommended I read "The Apprentice" by Jacques Pepin. That book had me laughing out loud, and that's, as they say, all she wrote.

Now these types of books are favorites. This book is right up there with the Sweet Potato Queens and Paula Deen as Southern foodie fun. If only I had the family and friends and the right kitchen in which to entertain my dreams. Someday, I hope. Someday.

"By the time I started taking cookbooks to bed--to read, study, and dissect--I knew my kitchen, perhaps my life, would never be the same. I had a destiny, a food-obsessed life."

"I have come to believe that beginning a serious recipe is similar to beginning a novel--you gather the essential ingredients and forge ahead. If you wait too long to start, your butter might melt, your cream might spoil. And for heaven's sake, don't turn your back on it. A pot of water, or even a trembly first draft, can boil dry. You can't fret about grease fires, dirty dishes, or floury countertops. It's important to press on, to finish what you start; but at the same time, don't be too proud to throw out you failures."

and of her childhood:
"I invented imaginary worlds, where elves danced under the clothesline and stole human babies from their cribs. My Mimi encouraged me to believe in these creatures. She said fairies--perhaps even ghosts--existed at the edges of things. I saved leftover biscuits and hid them on the back porch, and by morning they were always gone. 'The fairies were starved!' Mimi said."

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Sweet Potato Queens' Big Ass Cookbook

I love the SPQs. Their lives are all about a good laugh and a good meal. That's really living when it comes down to it. Here's an excerpt:

"Mom's friend Dorothy Frazier makes this pumpkin stuff that will make you the most popular one at any potluck dinner you ever attend. (I know, just the thought of pumpkin goobs some people out, but trust me, folks will gnaw off their neighbor's arm to get at this stuff.) I'm sure it has a real name, but we just call it That Pumpkin Stuff That Dorothy Makes. You mix together 1 16-ounce can of pumpkin and a can of Pet evaporated milk, and then you add 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 3 eggs. Then you put that stuff in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan and crumble 1 yellow (butter) cake mix (we use Duncan Hines) and one cup chopped pecans on top of it and then you pour 2 sticks melted butter over it. (It's hard even to write that with a straight face--two sticks? Yes ma'am--yum, no?) Bake it for 50 to 60 minutes at 350.

While you let it cool off, make the frosting by mixing together 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, and 2 cups Cool Whip, then smear it on top of the pumpkin stuff and put some more pecans on top. Then force yourself to put it in the refrigerator until it's time to go to the potluck dinner; otherwise you won't have any left to take. When you get there, immediately serve yourself a big wad of it and go off somewhere safe to eat it, because once the next person tastes it, it's over--they'll be swarming on it like yellow jackets on a KFC bag."

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