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Tom Chaney: Mary James dishes it out

Of Writers and their Books: Mary James dishes it out is a review of Mary James [Moss] Lawrence's cookbook. She left Hart County in the 1960s and opened her business in North Carolina. There are food jaunts to France. This column first appeared 3 February 2008
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Dan Sickles: 'Roguish Rapscallion'

By Tom Chaney

Mary James dishes it out

Here is a cookbook to be read with joy!

I have not made a single recipe from it yet, but I think I've gained at least five pounds just reading. This week Mary James [Moss] Lawrence sent me a copy of Mary James dishes it out: Favorite Recipes and Personal Teaching Notes (Roosters Gourmet Market and Gifts, 2007).

Your chance to get a signed copy of this fine cookbook and to try some bites therefrom will come on this Valentine Day, 2008.

Mary James left Hart County after graduating from Caverna High School in the 1960's. She began teaching cooking some twenty years later and has been at it ever since.

Her book has grown out of that teaching career as well as her career as cook for her family. In fact it is dedicated "To my children, Warner and Emily, who come to the table with a sense of adventure and a willingness to try anything."

She operates Roosters Gourmet Market and Gifts in Greensboro, North Carolina, and conducts food jaunts to Provence in the south of France.

I am attracted to Mary James dishes it out in great measure because of the teaching notes accompanying the recipes. They make complicated procedures plain and explain the "why" of doing things. In the recipe for Vinegar Chicken with Scallions she instructs: "Having your chicken patted very dry will help with browning and keep chicken from steaming. The very small amount of sugar also enhances browning. Browning this chicken to almost burning is what makes it so good. Don't be tempted to keep turning the chicken. Let it be and you will be rewarded!"

Another attractive and necessary feature of the book is the list of "Kitchen Essentials" -- those items of equipment which are necessary in a well equipped kitchen. From rubber spatulas to whisks; mandolins to timbale molds Mary James includes those tools which make cooking with zest easier and fun.

The recipes in this book are so designed to stretch the capabilities of the cook without seeming to daunt in the process. It is this quality which leads the still learning cook, into which category we all fall, beyond the usual and ordinary. Not only do I want to draw up a chair to Mary James' table. I want to learn in her kitchen.

This cookbook is going on my shelf amongst my favorites. It will keep company with some other very special books. The basic book for everyday reference is my signed copy of Julia Child's The Way to Cook. For Hart County food and tales, I like Charlie Williams' Out of Green River Kitchens. For other stories of kitchens and friends I'll never part with Bob Canzoneri's Potboiler. And Mary James is claiming a place in that heady company.

Now for the dessert. Mary James will be in Horse Cave at this very Bookstore on Valentine Day, February 14, 2008, from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. She will have signed copies of Mary James dishes it out.... available and she will dish it out -- offering tasty tidbits from her kitchen to all comers.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2013-02-03 03:28:02
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