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Hey Good Lookin’!
Whatcha Got Cookin’?

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I am not a snob. I am not a snob when it comes to my clothes, my music, my favorite authors, my perfume, my home (witness The Siding), or my shoes. I am not a snob when it comes to my food either. My favorite sandwich is sweet onion, Miracle Whip and salt on white bread. Yum, yum! I heard a lady on the radio the other day who tasted somebody’s pumpkin and apple pie (together in the same pan! What is the world coming to?) and she said, "Ahhh! The pumpkin whispers." I think she sounded just a little snobbish. My opinion.

My children are unanimous in their opinion that Dad is the better cook. They are wrong. Dad just cares what he eats. I don’t. I would happily live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Cheetos every day life except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. And it was cooking for Thanksgiving that got me thinking.

It occurred to me as I was mixing up my famous sweet potatoes with pineapple and a drizzle of honey, that cookbooks are revelatory. What I mean is that the cookbook you use most often may tell the world something interesting about you. Me? Fanny Farmer’s. Why? Because everything in it is good. It is not hard to follow. You do not have to send away for the ingredients. Fanny does not care if you use rubbed sage or ground sage. I think if you asked Fanny what the difference was she would raise an eyebrow and tell you to "get a life."

Oh sure, if you want to cook up a nice tender blowfish (alert! This is not a joke!) or some porcupine (I am dead serious!), or a nice Pot-au-Feu, if the index entry "Nori, see Laver" means something to you, then you want The Joy of Cooking. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that someone who does use The Joy of Cooking doesn’t especially care for onion sandwiches. They are probably the kind of person who changes their pajamas every night and who does not list as one of their hobbies "leaving the polish on my toenails alone so I can see how fast they grow." Because in the circles in which I run, round and round and round, I do not know anyone who uses The Joy of Cooking. I know lots of people who own it, but nobody who uses it.

How about someone who uses Southern Living Five Star Recipes? Call me a bigot, but what comes to mind for me is either a five foot two inch, 95 lb. debutante, or a very, very chubby guy who is quite happy as he is and knows what is good. And likes onion sandwiches. I am not five foot two and only one of my thighs weighs 95 lbs. But I like it. For special occasions. The best thing in the world is their Carmel Soaked French Toast. If I got to pick how I was going to die, it would be drowning in a vat of this manna. Oh baby, oh yeah!

I have some other favorite cookbooks. One is called Sahtein and is hard but not impossible to find. It is Middle Eastern recipes and they are wonderful. My other favorite cookbook is one my mother gave me long years ago. I doubt you can find it now. It is called Pioneer Cookery (I think. The cover on mine is missing.). It was published in 1978 by Linda Kennedy Rosser and everything in it is wonderful. It has recipes from Oklahomans and their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Everything from Faddle Soup to Poor Man’s Pie to Peppernut Cookies. When I cook anything from it – and I do whenever I am called upon to perform – I feel the presence of all my ancestors around me.

My first mother-in-law made all the bread that her family ate. When she was mixing the dough she made the sign of the Cross in the flour and said a prayer. I loved that! She was blessing the bread and blessing her labor and praying for the health and well being of her family. Cooking was a sacrament. Is a sacrament. Whichever cookbook you use, however plain or fancy your meals are, you are giving your family strength, and nourishment and health. All joking aside, what is finer than that?
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
November 23, 2006 Column
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