The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American
Even before Christopher Columbus landed, Europeans had been impressed with the bounty of the New World. Struck by the abundance of grapes, the Vikings named their landfall Vinland; English and Portuguese fishermen in the fifteenth century made annual visits to Newfoundland for cod. Much more recent has been the discovery that Americans can not only produce but also cook good food. THE FRUGAL GOURMET COOKS AMERICAN joins a number of other recent cookbooks, such as Christopher Idone’s GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD, that celebrate the country’s cuisine.
Many of the chapters treat foods that are uniquely American, such as corn, peanuts, catfish, turkey, cranberries, maple syrup. Others examine the way that the American melting pot has influenced its soup and stew pots. New Orleans’ dishes reveal the French, Spanish, and African roots of the city’s early inhabitants. Philadelphia’s characteristic foods reflect the mingling of English Quakers and German Protestants in William Penn’s colony.
Smith’s recipes reveal, too, that even when immigrants brought their recipes with them from Europe, Africa, or Asia, they almost invariably adapted them to make use of American ingredients. German scrapple and French pancakes are traditionally served with American maple syrup. African Pea Chop and Indonesian Sate include the American peanut. Thomas Jefferson combined Italian macaroni with the yellow cheese common to his homeland to produce a new standby.
Smith offers fascinating historical tidbits along with his recipes. Here one can learn the origins of the animal cracker and chili (yes, both are American) as well as of milk chocolate (Dutch), and one can appreciate anew the genius of Jefferson, who not only wrote the Declaration of Independence and founded the University of Virginia but also invented Baked Alaska.
This cookbook should encourage people to say, “Tonight, let’s eat American.” Appearing as it does during the Constitution’s bicentennial, it can serve as an invitation to many delicious birthday parties for the United States.