Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review: The Arizona Cook Book

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are."

When studying what to grow in the garden, I decided to look back at what food was eaten in Arizona in the past. In doing this, I found one gem in the Central Library. "The Arizona Cook Book" was published in 1911 by the residents of Williams Arizona to help raise money to build a public library for their town. The recipes in this book tell interesting stories about early life in Arizona.

The book balances basic pioneer cooking and more complex dishes. On one hand, you can make a rattlesnake bite remedy, chicken medicine, or pack a cowboy lunch (includes packing his own frying pan). On the other, there are recipes for oyster cocktails and strawberry ice cream.

Another theme in this cookbook is the preference for two good things: parties and pies. A number of the drink and dinner recipes are so large that the cook will have to invite their whole block. The most entertaining is the Mershon Woods Stew, which is not only massive but also involves a multi-page recipe involving seven different animals (but NEVER rabbit) and an equal number of suggested vegetables. Pies, too, receive a good amount of attention, and not just by the authors. The pie section of this cookbook is 12 pages long (twice as long as the bread section) and has sustained more damage from spills splatters and tears than the rest of the book combined (the book has been scanned from a used copy). This may speak to the quality of the recipes, or simply remind us of the natural human enthusiasm for pie.

As far as ingredients, the recipes use a diverse range of fruits, vegetables and meats. This is probably because once the issue of water shortage was solved for a homesteader in Arizona, it became possible to grow nearly any fruit or vegetable for the table. From the gardening perspective, this is pretty good news. I'm sure many locals could have already told me this, but it seems as though a dedicated gardener could grow almost anything around here.

Speaking of which, here are some updates from the garden:

The pepper plants are blooming and producing again.
We are looking forward to a good harvest before the frost.

Our cool season crops are up and growing. We had some germination issues but now everything is up and going. These are our beets and carrots but we also have arugula, lettuce, redishes, cabbage, peas, garlic broccoli, chard mustard greens, cilantro, onions, collard greens, and a few other surprises you'll have to come and check out.

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