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BOOKS THAT COOK by Jennifer Cognard-Black


The Making of a Literary Meal

edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black ; Melissa A. Goldthwaite

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4798-3021-3
Publisher: New York Univ.

A buffet of poems, stories, essays and recipes.

Editors Cognard-Black (English/St. Mary’s College of Maryland; co-editor, Beyond Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Essays on the Writing of Harriet Beecher Stowe, 2011, etc.) and Goldthwaite (English/St. Joseph’s Univ.; The Norton Pocket Book of Writing by Students, 2010, etc.) organize this anthology like a cookbook, with literature and recipes that relate to a particular part of a meal, from appetizers to dessert. Each section opens with an entry from a cookbook; arranged chronologically, these may or may not have anything to do with the section that follows. “Starters,” for example, is introduced by an excerpt from Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796), which offers “Directions for Catering, or Procuring the Best Viands, Fish, etc.,” such as “How to Choose Flesh” and how to roast mutton. An excerpt from Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1896) is more relevant, introducing “Eggs” with instructions for boiling, scrambling and poaching them. The editors explain that the book “is deliberately organized so that readers can achieve their own equilibrium between the individual selections and their overall experience of the collection,” just as they might sample food at a buffet. For readers seeking some logic to their choices, the editors offer thematic reading menus: “Food and the Environment” features a piece by Terry Tempest Williams and a poem by Gary Snyder. “Love and Desire” includes a selection by Nora Ephron and an excerpt from Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1987). Of the collection’s 49 pieces, 11 were written specifically for the book. Among the well-known authors represented by previously published work are James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Sherman Alexie and Maya Angelou. Laurie Colwin contributes a delightfully funny piece about three repulsive dinners; Ntozake Shange chronicles her trip to Nicaragua to find the house where poet Rubén Dario was born and raised—and a recipe for “a very sexy little dish” of raw turtle eggs.

Food lovers and cookbook collectors will savor this literary stew.