Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crooked Road Cooking

Grazing Along the Crooked Road:  Recipes and Stories, Past and Present by Betty Skeens and Libby Bondurant

Reviewed by Jeanne

As the title suggests, this book covers the Virginia counties which are part of “The Crooked Road Music Trail.” Of course, that means it includes a good part of our area!  The book is divided up by county, with brief interviews, tales, tips and some really nice down-home recipes.  It’s a great browsing book.  Naturally I had to start with the counties I know best and was very pleased to find both people and places I recognized. I enjoyed reading about the Moonlite Drive-In, for instance, but I’d never heard of Buffalo Mountain until now.

Given the theme of “the Crooked Road,” it’ll come as no surprise that a number of the interviews are with musicians.  Some are well known, like Wayne Henderson or Ron Short; others are known only in their neck of the woods, so to speak, but all have a love of music and of place.

The recipes are wonderful and just right for this season with all the fresh vegetables.  I spotted several good ones for tomato lovers, including “Tomato Pie” and “Tomato Dumplings” as well as some great squash, corn, beans, and pumpkin recipes.  Many are variations on recipes I knew, but with some intriguing differences.  I’d never thought about adding carrots to a squash casserole, for example, but now that I think about it that does sound very tasty.  There are the old standbys like leather britches/shuck beans, cornbread, and stack cake as well as newer fare like Taco Soup or less well known item such as Chocolate Gravy or Lady Baltimore Cake.  There are few game recipes (venison, groundhog, squirrel, etc.) too.  Most of the recipes are very easy, which is an even bigger plus in my book.

This is a great book for browsing, for reading a few pages here and there.  I found there was always “just one more thing” I wanted to read and it was easy to get distracted when looking for that recipe I saw just a few minutes ago. The 30 second look-up would turn into 15 minutes while I read Joe Tennis’ comments about fishing for bluegill or an account of the Baptists’ Big Meetings or how to make homemade yeast.  The biggest drawback is that there is no index, but they do have a list of recipes at the start of each chapter which helps.

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