It is evident that author Michele Anna Jordan loves the history and art of cooking. CALIFORNIA HOME COOKING: AMERICAN COOKING IN THE CALIFORNIA STYLE not only offers interesting and unusual recipes, but gives a short history of California by way of cuisine. The introduction breaks down California history and food by stages in immigration from Chinese to French to Armenian immigrants. The recipes are separated into chapters by course and by main ingredient (i.e. “Salsas,” and “Main Courses Seafood”). Throughout the recipes section, which is the bulk of the book, are sprinkled heavily researched, very interesting sidebars. These sidebars give tips on working with a particular food, but also include recipes from old newspapers, letters, cookbooks, as well as a look at each of the twenty-seven original counties in California. Also, some of the sidebars are excerpts from writings about California. One excerpt is from author Joan Didion that explores the meaning of water to Californians. When searching for a recipe it is very easy to get sidetracked on the sidebars.
The recipes are equally interesting. However, most are not for the everyday cook. Many of the recipes are time-consuming and require hard-to-find ingredients such as nopales (cactus paddles), toasted sesame oil, cuttlefish, and unusual chiles or cheeses. Many recipes are from famous restaurants throughout California and are worth some of the effort. The recipes do not cater to the basic meat, potatoes, and iceberg salad tastes. They use a variety of spices and sauces, and most likely would appeal to the gourmet rather than the gourmand.
CALIFORNIA HOME COOKING is fully indexed, including the sidebars, and has an appendix on places likely to carry some of the more unusual ingredients. This is a most tantalizing cookbook, but not really applicable for everyday use.