Thursday, December 5, 2013
A few years ago I stopped into a local Portland bookshop (since departed) to buy the latest cookbook that had been published by Linda and Martha Greenlaw, the famous mother-daughter duo from Isle au Haut.
I was surprised not to see a copy on the display table, so I asked the bookseller about it.
“We don’t carry that sort of book,” he replied.
At first I thought he was joking.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because it has nothing to do with serious food,” he said as though I were looking for a Baedeker on ants.
When the Greenlaws brought out their first cookbook, Recipes from a Very Small Island, it not only put Isle au Haut on the map but became a staple on many home cookbook shelves. The assertion that it has “nothing to do with serious food” is asinine.
My favorite recipes from the first book include Simon’s Lemon Pie, a monumental creation and the very simple Gulf of Maine Haddock Casserole, which uses (gasp!) canned cream of shrimp soup as part of its base.
The initial attempt to buy their second book, the Maine Summers Cookbook, left such a bad taste in my mouth that it wasn’t until recently that I finally purchased it at Longfellow Books in Portland, where it’s still prominently displayed.
Regional local cooking is as important to our culinary scope as the latest trends from world-class chefs. Whether one swoons over French Laundry impresario Thomas Keller or sits down by a cozy fire to savor the recipes from the Greenlaws or a book like Sandra Oliver’s Maine Home Cooking, it’s all a matter of taste of that moment.
In Maine, chroniclers of local food abound by authors past and present. Marjorie Standish, the former longtime food editor of this newspaper, is now a legend of the culinary arts. I have many of her books including the newly issued ones and a few of the originals, which I refer to often for basic preparations.
Brooke Dojney’s excellent New England Cooking and Dishing up Maine are two books that most Mainers have on their shelves alongside multiple editions of The Maine Rebekahs Cookbook.
Perhaps to a strident few, our local flavors should be relegated to an errant pigpen for parvenus. But I defy anyone not to like the blueberry cinnamon ice cream, for example, that I made recently from the newest Greenlaw book. And tonight I’m looking forward to using up leftovers from a weekend roast to prepare Sandy Oliver’s Ham Loaf with Pineapple Glaze from her excellent Maine Home Cooking.
Here are a few of my other favorite cookbooks--from the simple to the sublime—that I’d like to share.
Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Hall Foose
The American Table, by Ronald Johnson
Butter Beans to Blackberries, by Ronni Lundy
The River Cottage Cookbook, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Jasper White’s cooking from New England, by Jasper White
Desserts by the Yard, by Sherry Yard
The Farm, by Ian Knauer
The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis
Mexican Everyday, by Rick Bayless
Antojitos, by Barbara Sibley, et al
A16 Food + Wine, by Nate Applemen and Shelley Lindgren
Ad Hoc at Home, by Thomas Keller
Carnivore, by Michael Symon
The Babbo Cookbook, by Mario Batali
Secrets of the Great French Restaurants (Widenfeld edition), by Louisette Berthoile
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.