Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Victory Garden Cookbook: Review

Last week I got a chance to hear Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine speak at a City Arts and Lectures program at Herbst Theater. I took copious notes so I will probably be regaling you with tidbits over the next few weeks.

One of the questions asked was: What are your favorite cookbooks, the ones that you couldn't live without? In addition to such classics as Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book, volumes by Marcella Hazan, and Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients Reichl also mentioned what she called an "odd one" Marian Morash's The Victory Garden Cookbook. "If you have some vegetable that you can't think quite what to do with she always has great suggestions." said Reichl.

Let's just say, I can relate. I bought a used copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook at a garage sale about ten years ago and it immediately became one of my go-to cookbooks. It's long out of print, but you can find it easily on eBay or Amazon. Whenever I am stuck in a rut with almost any vegetable, I find something new to do with it in this book. Some of the recipes I have come to love are the sauteed radishes, the beet borscht, broccoli de rabe with penne, and the Portuguese kale soup.

Victory gardens were a phenomenon that took hold during the second world war. The idea being that we could all be could become more self-sufficient by planting a vegetable garden. The book is really a companion to a gardening television series that ran many moons ago. While I don't have a garden, I am certainly more self-sufficient because of this book!

Each chapter focuses on a different vegetable that might be grown in a backyard type garden. There is a discussion of the vegetable, information about how to store, preserve, cook and use up leftovers. Then there are the recipes. For example there are ten different suggestions for finishing touches for warm asparagus, another five suggestions for cold asparagus and six recipes. How could you ever get bored of asparagus with that many suggestions? If you can find a copy of this book, do yourself a favor and buy it.