Make this one your standard
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 January 2018
I go as far as to call this the ultimate book on American cooking. If you have not got any books on American cuisine, please make this one your first: Chances are that once you own it, you will either wear it out until it falls apart with constant use...., or it leaves you drooling for more and you will fill up your shelves with other high-quality volumes on the subject.
Martha is an authority on all things food, and baking in particular. The pillars of her business are her extensive knowledge and experience, which set her apart from so many others who simply rely on their marketability. The choice of recipes representing each region is superb, painting an accurate culinary picture of the diversity that is American cooking.
Starting with a chapter on foods that are known and loved from coast to coast, she sets out in the East and heads west. Each chapter reveals the distinctive character of the region. The first chapter is on New England and the Mid Atlantic states: in northern New England, seafood dominates the kitchens, along with regional products like maple syrup, cranberries, potatoes, and corn. New York City's and Philadelphia's cosmopolitan appeal originates in centuries of immigration from all over Europe, predominantly Italy and Ireland, while the Pennsylvanian countryside shows Dutch and German influences. The cooking of the South is a treasure chest of innovation.Post-war economic dependency on the North made it necessary for the people to reinvent their cuisine. They drew heavily on African influences: popular and well-known dishes like shrimp and grits, hoppin' john, collard greens, fried okra, pickled watermelon rind, and sweet potato pie give testimony. But in Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, Cajun and Caribbean Creole influences, together with the area's French roots survived, and in subsequent decades received a subtle Italian makeover, which enlivened the culinary repertoire. German, Scandinavian, and Eastern European immigrants embossed their culinary traditions on the Midwest, the area around the Great Lakes, with heavy use of dairy, pork, and wheat, alongside the region's very own "wild rice." The Southwest's Mexican heritage permeates the cooking of Arizona, New Mexico, and, of course, southern Texas: tamales, fajitas, enchiladas, salsas, and chiles rule supreme. And barbecue! Lots of barbecue... The chapter on the West deals predominantly with Californian cuisine, where everything is light and full of veggies and Mediterranean overtones.
Ingredients are easily obtainable. You won't have to make trips to ethnic grocers or markets, or order stuff online to cook these dishes. Just shop where you usually do. Okay, maybe you'll have to look a bit for catfish, and you might not be able to buy fresh jalapeno chiles in each and every Tesco or Waitrose... but that's pretty much it!
There are a few things that I've noticed, however: The book barely touches the Rockies, and the Northwest is underrepresented. The book gives amounts in pounds and cups and tablespoons, no metric measurements, so if you are set on metric you will have to start over and get used to American cup measurements (where 1 cup = 236 ml), which is not a biggie except for baking (as always) where metric produces more reliable results. These are the only two flaws imho.
Get it while you can, you will not regret it
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