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Tom Chaney: Christmas Again

Of Writers And Their Books: Christmas Again. Please bear in mind that this Tom Chaney column is from December five years ago. The church cookbook may not be readily available. This column first appeared 5 December 2010.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Literature and the Plague

By Tom Chaney

Christmas Again

It's coming Christmas. Echoes of my favorite carol are coursing through the foggy synapses of my brain.
Angels we have heard on high
Telling us go out and buy!
We have got through "Black Friday" and cyber Monday. Now it is time to get really serious about harking to the angels' cry.

And just beneath the glorious pitch of the singers, I hear the refrain:
Books! Give Books!
Shop at home! Shop at home!
This is a good Christmas for the gift of a cook book.

We've a couple in the store I call your attention to.

The first is a new production of the Horse Cave United Methodist Church. They have put together a most interesting collection of the recipes of members and friends from kitchens past and present.

They call it Feeding the Flock. Whether 'tis a flock of Wesleyan chickens or just plain United Methodist sheep I will not venture to guess. But it is a better book than most of its kind. I don't think I make that judgment simply because they put in one of mine own receipts.

It is a good book first because of the list of fine local cooks who contributed recipes. And many of those local cooks have been abroad and bring elements of culinary treats from other places.

For instance Garry Schrier's instructions for Baked Stuffed Walleye Pike reminds me of past fishing trips to a lake in Canada where friends and I subsisted on relatives of the walleye pike for days which ended too soon. Would that we had traveled with marjoram and wine instead of corn meal and lard.

And Tillie Botwin's receipt for Flank Steak with Marinade is generating drool in my computer keyboard. And I'm not even at the dessert section yet.

The only possible flaw in Feeding the Flock is that it does not include one receipt which I offered, namely Mule and Turnip Surprise.

My other favorite cookbook is Out of Green River Kitchens: A Collection of Family Recipes by Munfordville attorney Charles D. Williams.

It was published several years ago, but it still stands in my estimation as one of the finest cookbooks around. Were I selecting a gift for an untutored bride, this would be it.

The more than 240 recipes in this book were "kept" by Mrs. Williams. "Kept" is the correct term for any cookbook, for in cooking more than any other art, the result is a building on and expansion of the work of others.

Mr. Williams has chosen a unique format for this book. The recipes are presented in facsimile from his mother's two notebooks. They are in her handwriting, the handwriting of her friends, and in the form in which she clipped them from a variety of printed sources.

This choice gives the reader and the cook a delightful insight into the character of Mrs. Williams and her kitchen. One may presume that a darkened smudge on the recipe for sweet and sour green beans (page 236) is not a failure of the copier, rather the smudge of an ingredient from the hand of the cook.

A fine cookbook with interesting and delicious recipes -- but even more the telling of "stories about Mother -- her ways, her cooking rituals, her sayings, and her work ethic -- for the benefit of her great-grandchildren and others who will never know first-hand just what an extraordinary woman she has been."

This is what a cookbook should be -- a vivid picture of a master cook and teacher at work compiled by a knowing son who is no mean cook himself.

Out of Green River Kitchens is also available at The Bookstore where the Christmas browser may select from hundreds of other cookbooks both new and gently used.

So let us sing with Pogo O'Possum his favorite carol with lyrics by Walt Kelly.
Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!
Editorial Note: The emphasis here is on choosing something local. Enjoy Tom's enthusiasm about cookbooks. This is from five years ago. RHS

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 2015-10-25 03:14:28
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