Once again I return to write a quick book report. There are a couple more in the works, so if you enjoy reviews of new books, stay tuned. But for now, permit me to turn your attention to The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther.
Food culture in America is a complex thing, borne of a mishmash of traditions from all over the world that inform family cooking habits, World Wars that introduced a generation to Old Country cooking, and the advent of industrialized food production. For all that, the great variety of foods we see today is relatively new. One of our local grocery stores, for example, stocks a small shelf of Indian food. The larger one does not.
Thirty years ago, the town where we lived in west Michigan did not have a McDonald’s. As I remember it, there was Hiatt House Pizza and the Chicken Coop. And even though migrant workers from Mexico arrived en masse at harvest time, there was no Mexican food to be had at all. After we moved, I discovered Taco Bell, but it wasn’t until I was in college in the early 90s that an employer took me to a bar in Grand Rapids that served real Mexican—prepared by an elderly Mexican woman who made everything fresh in the bar’s tiny kitchen.
I say all that just to highlight how much there is still to explore in the world of food and cooking, especially when it comes to feeding your family. There are older traditions that have yet to be rediscovered, and The Nourished Kitchen does just that. The author takes us back to the American farm of the early twentieth century, when families maintained a hearty vegetable patch, regularly gathered eggs from the chicken coop, milked the cows, and occasionally pulled a few fish from a local pond or stream. The recipes contained herein are beautiful in their simplicity. And yet, with a few healthy ingredients, McGruther creates a menu that is fresh and exciting, and one that offers a surprising amount of variety.
Take, for example, the chapter on dairy. If you have a few organic, herbalist, New Age nutritionist, pseudo-scientific anti-food allergist friends (and who doesn’t), you’ve certainly heard of kefir (aka, fermented milk). And if you’ve heard of kefir, you know all about its overstated health value. But ignore that bit for a moment and consider kefir as part of something larger—a traditional way of approaching food, perhaps. A traditional approach that is likely to be healthier than the was we might be eating now.
McGruther begins with a recipe for making kefir and then continues with an exploration of yogurt. Apparently Yoplait and Greek are just the tip of the iceberg. With different yogurt cultures, you can make yogurts from all over, each with its own unique texture and flavor. Then these yogurts can become more than just pre-packaged breakfast food. It’s something you can make at home; something that fits well on the lunch and dinner menus.
The cookbook has a larger scope than just dairy, of course, and it all looks amazing. I think the stunning photos could be credited for much of that, but they match nicely with the written recipes and will certainly drive our meal preparation for a few months. For a closer look, head over to McGruther’s website and order a sampler of recipes from the book.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.)