Friday, November 09, 2012

Book Review - Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa's Best-Known Homemaker

Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa's Best-Known Homemaker
by Evelyn Birkby
Bur Oak Books/ University of Iowa Press
 September 2012
Evelyn Birkby started to write her column - "Up a country lane" - in the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel newspaper in 1949, and has been writing it ever since. She went on to develop a career as a radio then television broadcaster, as well as writing several books. In this volume, she has revisited her articles and reflected and expanded on her favourites, producing an autobiographical memoir which is utterly absorbing and is one of the very nicest books I have read this year.
Despite the title, not every chapter does contain a recipe, but each one is sweet, honest, and rings very true to the reader. Life in a rural part of Iowa is described matter of factly but vividly, conjuring up a multi-faceted picture of the columnist's life as a farm wife with a young family and a variety of pets. Their family history, her memories of local history and events are all given this straightforward but lyrical treatment. Sixty five years of marriage and four children later,  she writes with enormous amounts of wisdom, humour, poignant reflections and plain good old common sense, which is in all too short supply these days. Living in the good old days was often harsh and hard when weather conditions were dreadful in the winter months. She looks back on the past with fondness but crystal clear clarity and does not fall into the trap of donning rose-tinted spectacles. The horrors of having to brave the elements to visit the outhouse on a cold winter's night are not glossed over!

She is honest about her cooking failures and mistakes; she was not initially a terribly good cook, but armed with the recipes given her by family, friends and readers, and after much practice, she became a good cook and realised that food was an important form of social and familial cohesion and bonding  as well as fuel for the body. Her section on potlucks will bring a chuckle to anyone who has ever provided food for a potluck. The entry about aprons, their uses, abuses, and cutting the apron strings off for her children when they grew up was one of my absolute favourites.
 I am not surprised that she was such a popular columnist for her local newspaper; I found something to enjoy or marvel at in each article. An absolute delight of a book, and the recipes are pretty darn awesome too !


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1 comment:

margaret said...

This reminded me I need an apron so I went to Google and typed in 'apron recipe'.