The Cookbook Project: Artist Recipes


Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Cookbook Project! It was my intention, when I started this project back in September, to make this a twice-weekly series, but my teaching schedule made life pretty much catch-as-catch can. That said, now that it’s the new year and my teaching schedule involves a LOT less time spent shuttling between campuses on the extreme north and south ends of the city, I plan to post here more regularly, with fun new features in addition to this one.

So, in my last post about Sampler, I told y’all about the cookbook’s “starring artist,” LuAnn Barrow. The next few installments will center on the recipes themselves. The Table of Contents is divided into discrete categories: Artist Recipes, Appetizers, Beverages, Soups, and so on through every conceivable course through “Miscellaneous Desserts.” I have personally divided the Artist Recipes section into the following two categories: Legitimate (as in, “I can see myself making this”) and Jokey-Joke/WTF?!?

While I am tempted to start with the WTF?!? category, I think I’ll start with the Legitimate ones because I think they do some interesting work, the first being that they are pretty well gendered (all of the WTF?!? recipes were contributed by men) and they also reflect the food trends of the era.

Naccios

Let’s start with Gay Fay‘s recipe, the first in the book, for “Naccios,” an “Italo/Yuppie version of nachos,” which placed second in the Second Annual Pesto Cook-Off in Austin. A couple of tries with the Google machine yields no information about this alleged pesto cook-off, but those of you who were alive and cognizant of food trends 20-30 years ago will recall that pesto was HUGE in the yuppiefied ’80s and well into the ’90s, so it doesn’t surprise me that the same generation of Austinites responsible for SPAMARAMA also yielded a pesto cook-off. (These days we like to make pesto out of anything that stands still long enough to get tossed into the food processor; I reckon the pesto mentioned here is the bright-green, basil-pine nut-parmesan variety.)

Another recipe, “Autumn Soup,” contributed by Peggy Byars and which “loses no nerve when ‘too busy too cook’ times arrive,” calls for “brown bouquet sauce,” something I’ve not heard of before. Have you? It is apparently a sauce you use sparingly to add brown color to gravies and the like. Wikipedia tells me that bouquet sauce (Kitchen Bouquet) was advertising in the 1903 Boston Cooking School magazine (what’s up, Fanny Farmer!), so it’s been around for a good, long time. It’s also basically caramel coloring and sodium, so it’s no surprise that it has fallen out of favor by now. In fact, I can’t find any other recipes in this cookbook that calls for bouquet sauce (but I do see soy sauce and tamari creeping in), so it may have even been in very limited use by 1986. Side note: Byars describes herself as “coming of age” in her career in 1986, but I will reflect more on the artists’ biographies in a later entry.

Finally, I’d like to talk about “Chicken Paprika,” contributed by Annette Morris. This recipe stands out to me because of the “granny story” attached to it, providing a personal etymology of the recipe and tracing it through a matrilineal line.

chickenpaprika

I’m also intrigued and thrilled to see that the granny in question is described as “German-Texas,” because I’m guessing that, based on speculation on Ms. Morris’ age in 1986, her grandmother might have been a first- or second-generation German Texan. Unless, of course, this particular line of German-Texans arrived in 1830. Then she’d just be a regular old German-Texan. But the reason this thrills me is that I feel like so much of the discussion around ethnic Texan foodways centers primarily on the cultural influences of Mexico, leaving the Czech and German influences holed in their little Hill Country enclaves; does anyone beyond Central/Southeast Texas know about the Czechs and Germans in Texas? I know I never heard of, not to mention eaten a kolache until moving to Houston. Anyway, German-Texas grandmother. Yes. I am a bit befuddled by the connection to Syria, though, as it seems like this dish more closely resembles paprikash (all that cream and butter!) than any of the Syrian chicken dishes floating around out there. I’m also charmed by the fact that Morris shares the components/sides that make this the “perfect meal,” probably because I’m sort of obsessed with compiling all the “perfect meals” I’m able to pull off at my house (they are few and far between, trust).

On the whole, I see that many of the Legitimate recipes come with descriptions of feeding families, references to how successful a recipe is in terms of feeding a busy family (regardless of the sex/gender of the contributor), and even how the recipes fit into the artist’s/contributor’s sense of community (see: “Roberta’s Ratatouille,” which is described as the perfect dish for dinner party guests to contribute because “a pound of zucchini or a small onion or eggplant was not too much to ask of a friend,” particularly when feeding a passel of starving artists).

Up next: Chicken fried rattlesnake and bologna cups, or WTF?!? recipes that suggest a few artists might be poking fun at the audience for this particular cookbook.

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3 Comments

  1. MM Pack

     /  January 1, 2013

    I’m certainly dating myself here, but I can shed a little light on the pesto cookoff(s)–I only remember one, but looks like there musta been at least two. The one I participated in was documented in the late lamented Third Coast Magazine and happened, I think, in 1983 or maybe 84. I have a copy of the story somewhere and will look for it. Curiously, Third Coast (1981-87) hasn’t much internet presence, but it was a significant venue re local culture in its day.

    Reply
  2. Katie

     /  January 1, 2013

    You don’t have a decades-old bottle of bouquet your spice cabinet? I do–evidence of my rural Louisiana roots. :^) Feel free to let me know if you’d like to borrow a bit for your recipe. The stuff is as long-lasting as Twinkies, I think.

    Reply
  3. Crystal

     /  January 5, 2013

    Melanie, I’m just catching up on reading your blog and love that you’ve delved into this Austin cookbook project! How exciting! It sounds like the books you’ve found will provide such rich material for research. I’m looking forward to reading about your discoveries and analysis here!

    Reply

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