A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
Range. With a foreword by Elizabeth
Gilbert and introduction by the author.
San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2012.
This book was originally published by Potter in 1947 and may be the second cookbook I’ve ever read from cover-to-cover (the other, Mildred O. Knopf’s Memoirs of a Cook). Often, I’ll casually peruse the contents, checking out the ingredients of a particular recipe, to see if I might like to prepare it. But At Home on the Range is no ordinary cookbook. The author seems to create a story with each recipe. Even its presentation on the page defies modern conventions where one lists the ingredients above and directions below. No, Potter’s entire recipe is frequently a delightful but informative narrative, giving one the most minute detail about how to prepare it. Here is a notable example:
CHICKEN CACCIATORE is made for six with 2 three-pound frying chickens cut up, dusted with flour, salt and pepper, and browned in ½ cup of olive oil. Fish out the chicken, put the pieces in a casserole, and add to the oil a chopped garlic clove, 1 cup of chopped onions, and an optional pinch of sweet basil and rosemary. When the onions are soft, pour in 1 can of tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Let this simmer for 15 minutes. Pour over the chickens, cover tightly, and cook in a 350° oven for 45 minutes. Serve it with buttered boiled spaghetti, and pass the grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (51).
Overall, Potter’s directions are exacting yet flexible, her opinions strong, so much so that I shall have to try this one, too, just to see how it tastes—not to mention the other two dozen recipes I’ve marked with Post-It arrows! McSweeney’s has recreated the original end papers and added engaging chapter fonts, as well as pert little illustrations, giving the book its historical and artistic due. If you love to cook AND read, you'll love this book.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-21 Mississippi