Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader: Recipes from Mitford Cooks, Favorite Tales from Mitford Books Hardcover – Oct 25 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
"Food is a great way of communicating," says Mitford series author Karon in her charming cookbook brimming with comforting recollections, quotations, homespun kitchen wisdom and more than 150 mouthwatering recipes for foods that have appeared in the author's books. Characters in Karon's close-knit Mitford, N.C., community often get into challenging situations, and foods rich with Southern-influenced flavors of hearth and home are always close by: Marge's Deep-Dish Apple Pie, Father Tim's Beef Tenderloin, Cynthia's Lemon Squares and Uncle Billy's Sweet Potato Pie. Karon includes full-flavored classics like Louella's Cinnamon Rolls, Lottie Greer's Fried Chicken and Country Biscuits, Cynthia's Lasagna, Puny's Macaroni and Cheese, and Lew Boyd's Chocolate Cake, all with nary a calorie counted. There's even a recipe for dog biscuits and one for creating a "Christmas Smell" right from the stovetop. What makes this cookbook distinctive is that fans are treated to the exact scenes in Karon's stories where each dish was enjoyed. There's also a bonus Mitford story and recipes inspired from Karon's upcoming novel, along with plenty of sage cooking advice from how to season an iron skillet and stock a spice cabinet to pointers on saying grace and a rumination on the meditative effects of washing dishes by hand. Uncomplicated ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions will afford cooks, guests and fans plenty of time to savor the generous novel excerpts from the author's inspirational work. Color photos.
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About the Author
Jan Karon, born Janice Meredith Wilson in the foothills of North Carolina, was named after the title of a popular novel, Janice Meredith.
Jan wrote her first novel at the age of ten. "The manuscript was written on Blue Horse notebook paper, and was, for good reason, kept hidden from my sister. When she found it, she discovered the one curse word I had, with pounding heart, included in someone's speech. For Pete's sake, hadn't Rhett Butler used that very same word and gotten away with it? After my grandmother's exceedingly focused reproof, I've written books without cussin' ever since."
Several years ago, Karon left a successful career in advertising to move to the mountain village of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and write books. "I stepped out on faith to follow my lifelong dream of being an author," she says. "I made real sacrifices and took big risks. But living, it seems to me, is largely about risk."
Enthusiastic booksellers across the country have introduced readers of all ages to Karon's heartwarming books. At Home in Mitford, Karon's first book in the Mitford series, was nominated for an ABBY by the American Booksellers Association in 1996 and again in 1997. Bookstore owner, Shirley Sprinkle, says, "The Mitford Books have been our all-time fiction bestsellers since we went in business twenty-five years ago. We've sold 10,000 of Jan's books and don't see any end to the Mitford phenomenon."
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Despite a nod to Father Tim's diabetes, this is pure, unadulterated, break-out-the-butter, down-home southern cooking. Don't look for calorie counts or number of servings. Most likely, with this carb-fest of comforting, sweet-tooth ticklin' recipes, you don't want to know the nutritional information! Just think of it as pure enjoyment.
Each recipe is presented in the order of its appearance in the Mitford series, and six recipes are included from the forthcoming and concluding novel, LIGHT FROM HEAVEN (2005). The recipes range from the simple Silver Queen Corn (butter, sugar, corn, salt and pepper) to the dust-off-your-apron-and-clear-your-schedule-for-the-day complex Esther's Orange Marmalade Cake (although this is photographed as a two-layer cake, the recipe calls for a more complicated three-layer).
Recipes run the culinary gamut: main course meals (Rector's Meatloaf, Ray's Barbecue Ribs, Cynthia's Bouillabaisse); basic side dishes (Puny's Potato Salad); mouth-watering desserts (Louella's Buttermilk Chess Pie, Cynthia's Raspberry Tart, Mama's Ice Cream in a Tray); beverages (Marge's Sweet Tea with Peppermint), and breads (Magdolen's Spoon Bread, Louella's Cinnamon Rolls). Playful recipes like Dooley's Fried Baloney Sandwich Supreme are paired with Dooley's Second Favorite Sandwich --- The Doozie, consisting of white bread, smooth peanut butter and Cheerios ("Fold the sandwich in half and jump on your bike and go"). Look for the unexpected, such as Barnabas's Dog Biscuits or The Lord's Chapel Communion Bread, and the unusual --- a page devoted to Russell Jack's livermush --- what it is, where to get it, and how to cook it.
Declining to try the livermush, I experimented with three recipes: Velma's Chili, Cynthia's Heavenly Tea, and Emma's Fudge. Velma's Chili is a thick, meaty concoction with the surprise addition of cloves and celery, and won rave reviews when I made it for a casual dinner party this fall. Like many cooks might do, I tinkered with the recipe a bit, adding more tomato sauce than called for. Cynthia's Heavenly Tea is a memorable, rich drink with an unusual blend of tea, apricot nectar, mint, frozen lemonade, and a squirt of almond extract. Emma's Fudge didn't set up firmly for me, but was scrumptious anyway --- cooled, spooned up and eaten, rather than cut into squares.
Though the recipes whet the appetite, they are only a smidgeon of what makes this cookbook so appealing. Sprinkled throughout the beautifully designed pages are table blessings, poetry, and little vignettes about Karon's own culinary life and history. Recipes are interspersed with full-color, mouthwatering artwork and photographs of the featured foods, often pictured on Karon's own tableware. "Puny's Saving Grace" tips offer snippets of cooking wisdom on everything from keeping lettuce fresh to freezing ripe bananas. The recipes appear alongside their specific excerpts from the Mitford novels, inviting contemplation of favorite passages while Uncle Billy's Sweet Potato Pie bakes in the oven.
Just why is there so much yummy food in the "Mitford" books? Karon answers that question in her page-long essay, "Writing Hungry," one of many such nostalgic reflections from the author that makes the book so wonderfully palatable. Karon remembers life as a freelance writer when bills piled up, her cupboards were bare, and she dreamed of good food --- food that found its way into the pages of the Mitford novels. Karon tells how she learned to make do, even creating soup broth from chicken bones (recipe included). A lovely two-page essay recounts one of Karon's "starving writer" Christmases and how she canned apples, picked free from a tree in her yard, for Christmas gifts (complete with an original poem and a recipe). But of that time: "What I learned mostly, however, is that God is faithful," Karon writes.
It's the personal warmth of Karon that gives this cookbook and kitchen reader its charisma. On one page, Karon confesses, "Cover your eyes! Plug your ears! It's confession time. I love anything fried!" Another page, detailing her grandmother's biscuit recipe, notes, "If you have a grandmother, go call her right now and tell her you love her to pieces. Actually, if you have a mother, call her, too." Gratitude to her readers permeates the pages: "...together our imaginations have made Mitford real, very real --- and I couldn't have done it without you."
Mitford fans --- your collection won't be complete without this book!
I am more of an armchair chef than a real cook, and I bought this book because I love the Mitford characters and story. I wasn't disappointed. The day after getting this in the mail, I sat down for three hours and just read the stories that go along with each recipe, read Jan Karon's notes and sidebars about cooking, the characters, and life, and looked at the mouthwatering recipes, vowing to try some.
I love that most of them are totally simple and anyone can do them (barring the marmalade cake, which you will need to have both a well-stocked kitchen and a whole day set aside to bake), like Father Tim's Meatloaf (Old Faithful) or the three very different (yet still simple) apple pie recipes (made with Sadie Baxters of course!).
So as a cookbook, it gets five stars, and as a Mitford reader, it also surprisingly gets five stars. There is even more text than recipe, and that makes it a true pleasure to relive some of our favorite Mitford moments and imagine bringing the characters to life by preparing their recipes.
Now Karon has penned the Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader to satisfy her fans, who have been writing the author for years about the many dishes mentioned throughout her books.
The book is a clever combination of recipes based on dishes mentioned in her novels along with excerpts of those books, to give newcomers a glimpse into the Mitford world. Each chapter is filled with insights into one particular novel (A Light In The Window, A Common Life, Shepherds Abiding, etc), and most recipes are accompanied by either a passage from the book talking about the dish, or comments from the author about how the dish came to be included in the novel.
Not being familiar with the Mitford book series before now, it quickly becomes obvious why Ms. Karon's fans are always writing to her about the food in the books. The dishes in the Mitford Cookbook are for the most part simple, family fare, and sound absolutely delicious. The recipes are straightforward and complete step by step instructions, like the type you might get from a friend who's apple pie recipe you're going to try, are designed to make each dish as easy as following simple written directions. There's also a flavor of the characters who present the dishes in the Mitford books found in the different styles of dishes. Special mention to those recipes which have caused many a Mitford fan to salivate for years, such as Louella's Grandmother's Peach Cobbler, Avis' Salmon Roulade with Shallot Sauce (the recipe made ME salivate as well) and, I'm given to understand by the book, what amounts to the holy grail of Mitford food, Esther's Orange Marmalade Cake.
The readings included with a good many recipes give even more insight into the Mitford books, the various cultures of the books' many characters, and are designed to pique your interest in reading more. Karon has even included several short stories which appeared previously only in the pages of Victoria Magazine, and never in a Mitford book, not to mention some great comments on what she and her friends eat, and their many opinions on several food-related topics. Karon's musings on many foods and how to eat them are insightful, and, many times, also hilarious.
Filled with down-home charm and a mighty fine array of delectable comfort food, if you're looking to make the kind of food that you'd share with friends and family at a church social, then take a trip down the highway a ways and stop by Mitford, USA, and Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader. It's definitely a town full of dishes that any food lover will enjoy.