Found this little guy on a bookshelf at home. I couldn’t sleep last night and was browsing the shelves for something to read (which is obviously a great idea to cure insomnia – the more I read the more awake I am, unless it’s a physics book). As a pâtissière friend says, recipe books are only for ideas, so I never read them (I hardly even look at them at bookstores). My mother, like all Vietnamese mothers, never uses recipes either, so I was confused for a second of where this came from.
Then I found my host mom’s writing on the inner cover – it was a new year gift from her and my host dad. I lived with them in Texas during my year of exchange study. That year was filled with corn bread, lima bean soup, baked beans and sausage for dinner, pecan pie and Blue Bell ice cream for desserts, and my host dad’s cheese balls for snacks. When I opened the first page of this Little Texas Cookbook, there it was, a recipe for Spicy Cheese Balls.
This recipe is completely different from my host dad’s recipe (if he uses a recipe at all) because his contains ground meat and flour, where this one asks for cheese, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder and chopped walnuts. Needless to say, his is better. But the little book has four things to keep me reading:
1. Memories. I’m a sucker for nostalgic stuff. I love baked beans, I used to put baked beans on white bread to make sandwiches for lunch at school and snack at home. The Barbecue Beans on page 11 brings back that brown-sugar-sweet memory (we call it “baked beans” but they’re really barbecued/stewed beans). I don’t like chili, so that’s a different sort of memories.
2. It’s short. It has only 60 pages, half of them are pictures. The perfect midnight-snack size before I go to bed.
3. The mini fun facts. Stuff like “the Encyclopedia Larousse suggests that okra should be soaked in water before use, but no Texas cook would dream of using anything but the fresh unsoaked pod”.
4. The illustrations Glamorous food photography is all good, but I love mini drawings. There’s something so vintage about it.
Chronicle Books have other Little Cookbooks too: Brazilian, English, English Teas, Florida, Greek, Jewish, Northwest, Scottish, San Francisco (eh?!?!), Welsh, etc. Would make fun reads.