This Book Cooks by Kerry Dunnington Nostalgic, Farm Sourced, Practical Recipes Keeping the Earth In Mind
My immediate thoughts upon reading cookbook author Kerry Dunnington’s most recent book, This Book Cooks, Farm-Fresh Traditional Recipes for Healthy Contemporary Cooking (Artichoke Publishers) was that it made me feel nostalgic for the approachability of the cookbooks I grew up with from the Garden Club or Womens’ League filled with family recipes. Yet this book has a very contemporary message, of keeping the earth in mind, in all aspects of sourcing and cooking a meal.
“Honoring her mother’s spirit, she has infused the book with her belief in the importance of implementing family food traditions and recognizing that our culinary choices have a major impact on the environment.” She has strong convictions that “we must shop the harvest, appreciate the bounty and share in the goodness and nourishment that nature offers us.” I think anyone who reads the Beet will completely agree with these sentiments.
What is unique with her book is that before she segues into her 200 plus recipes, she outlines her “365 Days A Year Ecological Food Challenge” which I think is a great idea. The concept is “to get your family to join you in making small, daily changes that benefit the environment as well as their health”. Some of the ideas she outlines are: 1) The Seed To Table Food Challenge, which I think echoes the Peterson Garden Project’s Food Manifesto, grow your own food; 2) The Rainbow Challenge, eat colorfully; 3) The Re-Purposing Challenge, re-purpose one item a week, my latest re-purpose is canning jars from condiments that I buy at the Green City Market from Bushel & Peck’s and using them as containers to hold kitchen utensils; 4) Who’s Your Farmer Challenge; 5) The Season-To-Season Challenge; 6) The Old Fashioned Challenge, this category is full of tips keeping traditions in mind; 7) The Plastic Diet Challenge and 8) The Aromatic Food Challenge, appreciate food scents. She has a section on Eco-Shopping Tips like using re-usable bags, Country Financials‘ market bag is one to take advantage of in Chicago as well as Eco-ing Your Kitchen like using eco-friendly cleaning products.
The recipes are grouped in categories, Appetizers, Soups and Bisques, Entrees, Vegetables and Potatoes, Salads, Flour Power, Complementers(Salad dressings, sauces), Morning Glories(Some great ideas for brunch), Sweet Bites and she includes dog treats. In the back of the book she has included a lot of resources and advice towards shopping smarter and thinking “eco”.
Her recipes are layed out very simply which is why reading them got me nostalgic because you don’t see a lot of recipes for dips or spreads anymore or classic summer salads. The recipes give you a lot of latitude in some cases she says canned chicken stock and in the back of the book gives recommendations as to which ones to buy. For people who grew up with cooking traditions in your families, you may have inherited a lot of “family recipes” for staples like potato salad or cherry cobbler. For me, it feels like worlds colliding, traditional recipes where you feel like Kerry is sharing the recipes from her family with modern shopping and sourcing hints. She suggests buying local and fresh where you can, however, she makes the caveat which we make at the Beet, “eating foods indigenous only to certain geographic regions and climates is justified when you can’t get them otherwise”.
I have dog-earred, a “smoked fish and horseradish dip”, “spinach-stuffed chicken breasts”, “bountiful potato salad”, “blueberry-almond coffee cake”, “zucchini and egg casserole”, “cherry cobbler” recipe and a few others. You can google recipes but there is nothing like a book you can have open on the kitchen counter and lots of pages to flip through with many choices. With this book, YOU WILL cook!