Monday, June 1, 2009
Book Review: Comfortably Yum by Luisa Perkins
I'm not sure when I first became aware that Luisa was going to put together a cookbook, but I absolutely knew I would buy it.
Luisa has shared many recipes via her blog, Novembrance, and some of her family's favorites have become the favorites of my family, as well. (Her "Brookies" are to die for, and if I make them, it's an easy way for me to get D or C to do just about anything for me).
You can imagine my excitement as I tore through my copy of Comfortably Yum and found that my all-time favorite food quote (the description of breakfast from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy) was Luisa's pick for the intro. to her Breakfast section. I knew that my keen anticipation had not been in vain.
What I love about Luisa's philosophy about food is that it is a gift to be enjoyed, and that if people have "food issues" that's about other things and choices they make, not about recipes prepared well. She doesn't stint in the use of butter or sugar, and she has this marvelous story about her mother-in-law:
"Last Thanksgiving, my friend Tina Fairweather asked her (Luisa's mother-in-law) how to make it(cream of vegetable soup); my mother-in-law began giving instructions in response.When she came to the cup of milk and the cup of heavy cream, Tina asked, 'So you could use half-and-half, then?'
My mother-in-law replied in gracious but firm tones, 'Oh, no. I find there is no substitute for heavy cream.' Amen, Mother, amen."
Luisa also manages to convey her patience and kind heart via her writing: she presents an extremely useful ingredients/tools section at the beginning, which will certainly help in re-creating the recipes to their best advantage.
This book is actually a love letter to her family and friends, and she has beautiful commentary throughout, including humorous "Prelude" and "Postlude" sections. The Prelude concerns Luisa's personal history with food, and the Postlude contains some of her philosophy about food and enjoyment. Luisa is also an active member of her church, and she shares LDS traditions and philosophy along with her comments on family rituals and fun. Her comments are never heavy-handed or proselytizing, however - her views on these areas simply add to the points she's making about a particular recipe or section.
The recipes themselves are everything one could wish for - practical and delicious. Most of the recipes are fairly straightforward, but whether a recipe is as simple as her "Lynyrd Skynyrd" dip or is somewhat more complex, such as her Fondue recipe, her directions are crystal clear and feature humor and heart. Drinking peppermint tea is part of the Fondue ritual, for example, and listening to Los Fabulosos Cadillacs or The Gypsy Kings on low is a secret for making the Chicken Enchiladas the best they can be. While many of the recipes could define home-cooked "comfort food" - creamed tuna, a truly fabulous granola recipe, lemon squares, chocolate cake, and the previously mentioned enchiladas (which apparently elicited her wedding proposal), there are also a wonderful smattering of international recipes, especially Canadian (including poutine - for which I praise Luisa forever) and many Swiss recipes, reflecting her mother-in-law's heritage.
The sections themselves cover the gamut: breakfast, soups, main dishes, accompaniments, desserts and "snacks and pantry food".
I've had a tradition of giving Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything to newlyweds, college grads, and those who are just, plain starting new lives: for me, it is the modern version of The Joy of Cooking. I love the book, but it's somewhat overwhelming, and there are some things that Bittman does far better than others (his bread section, for example, is fairly abysmal, IMHO). I've decided to switch, however, to Comfortably Yum.
While it is on a smaller scale, Comfortably Yum is everything a new cook (or an experienced one) could wish for, and in addition to the fabulous culinary recipes, a wonderful recipe for living life with heart and humor is woven throughout. Who could ask for more?
I loved this book so much that I want to share it with one of my readers. If you'd like to win your own copy of Comfortably Yum, simply leave a comment by midnight, June 5th, and tell me why you need a copy of this book. It can be a need for yourself or for someone you know. I will probably determine the winner via random selection, just because I like being random like that.
This is my first real book review, but I need some way of rating this, so I'm going to give it 5 out of 5 "local love points".