03 Aug American Home Cooking
by Cheryl and Bill Jamison
When we think of “American” food, hot dogs, hamburgers and meatloaf typically come to mind. In American Home Cooking, Cheryl and Bill Jamison challenge that mindset. In this cookbook we get back to the roots of American home cooking, only to discover it didn’t all begin with McDonald’s or Burger King, but with unique people that came before us, melding their customs and characteristics into one big American melting pot.
This cookbook celebrates the process of preparing food — a process that is not only tasty, but also works to nourish the body and spirit, celebrating traditions like the savory stews and homey desserts that families used to eat together on Sunday. The book also explores the different cuisines introduced to America by immigrants — ones we quickly adopted into our own culture and lifestyle. Indeed, this book offers a compelling history of food that is easily forgotten in our seemingly homogenized diet.
In the beginning section of the cookbook, the Jamisons span four centuries of American food, from the harvests of Native Americans to the mass production of cereal in the Twentieth Century resulting from the Industrial Revolution. The recipes comprise the majority of the book, starting with breakfasts that range from Georgia “Bits n Grits” Waffles, a southern specialty with chunks of bacon and grits mixed right into the rich buttery batter, to a comforting Minnesota Breakfast Cereal of Wild Rice and Oatmeal with chewy pieces of tart dried cherries in it. A nice touch is the collection of interesting quotes and old-fashioned cooking techniques found on every page; I found myself drawn to the historic American lore that reads just like a storybook.
I eagerly tried the “Barbequed” Shrimp, a New Orleans specialty, which are not actually barbequed at all, but have a robust marinade that resembles a barbeque sauce. The recipe calls for a stick and a half of butter, and though I reduced that by half, they still turned out delicious, especially served with chunks of crusty bread that I used to sop up all the tangy sauce. A definite keeper in my book!
Since it is summertime and berries are at their best, I also tried the rich Blackberry Cobbler. A little different from what I’m used to, this old fashioned dessert has a sweet biscuit crust made with both butter and cream. (I suppose Americans do like their butter!) This cobbler is definitely worth every calorie, however, and I might try it again with a different mix of berries.
The most interesting section in this book is the last, entitled “Cherry Shrubs to Mint Juleps,” which features drinks that I have never heard of before! Try the Indio Date Shake, a specialty of Southern California, or the Raspberry Switchel that is surprisingly refreshing despite its odd ingredients.
American Home Cooking is a tasty collection of spirited recipes from all parts of the country. Cheryl and Bill Jamison revive the traditional foods that have been with us for centuries, urging us to get back into the tradition of the home cooked American meal and leaving fast food behind. How can we argue with that?
Review by Jennifer Weber