"At Our Table: Favorite Recipes to Share with the People You Love." The title alone allures--recipes to share with the people you love.
Case in point (and the main reason I bought this particular cookbook): "Table Topics," pp. 19-20. To be so thoughtful to include what makes a meal most enjoyable is comraderie, joie de vivre at the dinner table. Sharing. Roxie Kelley explains that, as a traveling, single, professional woman dining alone, she noticed the silence that ensued at too many other dinner tables, and decided then and there that she would be prepared for family conversation when she did have family. Her eventual husband agreed to make dinner a family experience. They also added etiquette and thoughtfulness. To this day, her children still thank her for a good meal.
How did Ms Kelley make dinner time enjoyable? She made lists of possible topics, but the main, of course, was each person sharing something significant from his/her day. Sharing. Knowing each other. Now don't you agree that this lovely concept is reason enough to acquire "At Our Table?"
Oh, need more? Here's a secondary reason: the sheer artistry and beauty of the illustrations. Each page or set of two pages has one of two looks--memory (scrapbooking) paper or original artwork in watercolors. Roxie uses two pages to lay out some recipes and one page each for others. Depends on details. Either way, an incredible amount of artwork went into the creation of this fun, fantastic cookbook.
Ah, you want to know about the basic reason for this book's existence--the bottom line--the recipes!! Even though I love the artistry and memory appearance and appreciate the thoughtfulness of the compiler, writer, philosopher and the illustrator Shelly Reeves Smith. In fact, this is their fifth book together.
What is so astonishing about their book is the need that will arise to try a majority of their recipes! I am always so enthused to find such a cookbook! The recipes are organized in the typical manner: Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes and Salads, Breads, Muffins and Spreads, Desserts, and This and That. Two recipes from the last category include Maurice's Holiday Tea and Christine's Marinade. Other items are Toasting Nuts and Timeless Tips.
A Little Gift of Herbs is an example of the generosity of spirit spread throughout the book. Roxie uses this mix of herbs to place in little cellophane bags, along with the recipe (on a card attached to the bag) for Herb Cheese Spread. Another Must-Have, Must-Try appetizer is Joy's Glazed Pecans--you know, those crunchy, sugar-and-cinnamon-coated pecans (and another great gift idea if you can bear to let these go).
Baked Mostaccioli is an easy, yet tasty dish great to send to new moms too busy (and tired) to cook, families in mourning, and, of course, your own little nest of birds with open beaks. It is sausage and cheese and sauce, both tomato and Alfredo, combined to create a rave-a-licious casserole. Other easy recipes include Chicken with Pasta, Crispy Baked Tilapia, Baja Tacos (filled with Cilantro Cream, Crispy Baked Tilapia, and Avocado-Orange Salsa). Aren't you tempted by this original taco?
White Bean Chili, Slow Cooker Ribs and Pork Chops (separate recipes), Wisdom Roast (there you go!), Ro-Tel Chicken. This recipes are all of this type--easy, yet tasty, creating a desire to try most of them, both in preparation and in consuming.
A great side dish is Sweet Ginger Carrots or Blake's Cream Cheese Corn or Christine's Tomato Tart or Broccoli Salad or Grape Salad. Again, you will want to try most of these recipes.
The same with Muffins and Breads, particularly the Sour Cream Muffins. Desserts? Roxie's own Orange Sugar Cookies are the best! Or Chocolate Cheesecake! One of my absolute favorites is Pecan Fudge Sheet Cake with Fudge Frosting. My mother made a similar cake when we were little. Ah, memories made and memories to come--all around food.
So, yes, there are probably better cookbooks in practicality and numbers and photos of each prepared dish, but the format of this book sets it apart. This is a cookbook for the person who longs for gentility, community, artistry, and comfort food. Each time I sit down with this book, I find something else to ease my burdens. Here's one last example: "In the gaps between the good things that happen in life, the places where disappointment lives, work with the intention to fill in the spaces with forgiveness and grace."