Friday, January 6, 2012

Simply in Season

(updated 1/19/12)  Simply in Season is a World Community Cookbook in the same tradition as More-with-Less and Extending the Table.  I think it's my favorite of the three. I've checked it out a few times from the library, and my mom just gave me a copy for my birthday! (Thanks, Mom!)

I appreciate the sentiments behind these World Community Cookbooks even though I'm not quite as die hard as they are (nor do I believe the ideas carry quite as much spiritual weight--certainly we are called to be good stewards, but they border on the mystical at times). At any rate, all three books encourage readers/chefs/eaters to be mindful of what they eat, how their food has been prepared, what they might be spending money on that's harmful to themselves/the environment/their budgets. All three stress home prepared foods, simple preparations, contentment with what's available--sounds good, right?

Simply in Season is my favorite because it's the most like the way I cook: LOTS of fresh produce, smaller amounts of meat, lower fat than many, and flexible.* This could not be my only cookbook because there aren't enough recipes for things like baked chicken or spaghetti; however, it's quickly becoming a go to source for quick, easy, and healthy weeknight meals. Variations are often given and substitutions are encouraged. A fruit pie recipe might include a crust recipe and then give four or five filling versions with different fruits. Recipes might not be company fare, necessarily, but they are wholesome, inexpensive, and tasty. The index is top notch, featuring not only the usual index by recipe title, but also each fruit/veggie/protein source/grain indexed in a clear, easy to read fashion.    *The others aimed for this same idea, but one was produced in the '70's and one in the '80's; we've come a long way in terms of grocery store availability for produce, ethnic ingredients, and even healthy ingredients such as brown rice. The older cookbooks just need aren't very up to date anymore.

The book is organized seasonally; there is also an "all seasons" chapter at the end. This means that, even if we aren't part of a CSA (which they advocate on nearly every page), it still ups our chances of finding the produce called for at such stores as Aldi. 
My only quibble with the book is that the recipes have clearly been gleaned from Northern and MidWestern inhabitants of our great continent: lots of recipes for rhubarb, persimmons, and the like that I won't really use. Not so many cucumber and tomato recipes (although, to be fair, there are several cucumber salads and a few tomato condiments for canning as well as lots of recipes that call for one or two tomatoes). It's more amusing, really, than a huge detractor for me. If a Southerner had produced this book, there would be a million variations for things like cucumbers and tomatoes and fresh basil--if anyone has a garden within 100 miles of my house, I can guarantee that they are overrun with these items at various points during the growing season. There would be recipes for red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, garlic pickles, fresh pickles, pickled okra, pickled watermelon rind, pickled jalapenos, and a whole chapter on how to prepare greens of all sorts and sizes and shapes..... I guess that's what I've tried to do on this blog: showcase recipes for the things I eat in this part of the country that can be done reasonably well at home without too much fuss. And I enjoy getting new recipes and inspiration from books such as this!

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