28 August 2014

The Complete Western Cookbook


The early 1960's brought us The Complete Western Cookbook by Betty Johnson. With the current fascination for regional cooking, I must say there is not a whole lot in this cookbook that would scream out, "This is the land beyond the Pecos." 

what this may indicate is a land beyond proper cookbook editors.  The book has a really funny layout.  It starts with curry and New Mexico dishes.  One of those seems a bit out of place.  It is followed by game poultry and barbecue.  Then we move into a huge section of desserts: cookies, cakes, pies, frosting, frozen desserts, and candies.  It is an odd jump to go from venison and barbecued chicken to Lane cake in a few pages. 

Then we move into appetizers, pastas, sandwiches and "Oriental" dishes. then we move into a fairy common list of eggs, soups, salads, sauces, meats and vegetables.

I must say, with the exception of the Mexican and Oriental dishes, the book could well have been titled, The Complete Southern Cookbook.  It seems Mrs. Johnson hails from Alabama and given that the book has at least 4 fried chicken recipes, more cornbread and pone and spoon bread than most, not to mention Lane cake, deviled eggs, ribs, and gumbo, it reads far more Southern than Western to me.

I was actually struck by how many good recipes there were in this book.  But, as we often find with books of this age, the recipes are kind of limited in the level of  direction one receives to actually cook the dishes.

I have a fondness for lima beans.  Yes, those little green ones are fine, but I am especially drawn to the large, white, dried lima beans.  This recipe offered a different twist on my usual white limas.

Creole Lima Chowder

1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon fat
1 cup sliced carrots
8 small onions, quartered
4 cups boiling water
2 cups diced celery
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic slat
2 cups cooked large dry limas

Saute beef in fat until evenly browned,  Add balance of ingredients. Cover simmer over low heat for thirty minutes until vegetables are done.  Remove cover and continue cooking 15 minutes.

I don't get why this recipe is "creole."  And while it sounds pretty simple, it seems to me there might be a lot to wrong in those instructions.  Starting with the soaking and cooking of the lima beans.  But you get the idea.


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