The raw deal about dieting is that I tend toward food aversion. I can't have anything good anyway, so why eat at all? Being unexcited about eating is the worst feeling ever. In such times of crisis I turn to cookbooks for succor.
A few weeks ago while browsing the new cookbooks at B&N, I came across Cowgirl Cuisine (2007). I normally would pass that by, um, but since I've gone horsey of late, I flipped through it and loved it's aesthetic so well that I resolved to buy it from my cookbook book club. I had enough bonus points to trade in for it, you see. Cowgirl Cuisine arrived a few days ago. I'm carrying it in my tote bag, so it rides in the car with me to work each day, then keeps me company at work--should I have a moment to spare, browse, and drool-- and then it returns home with me at night.
It all started when Paula relocated to Texas to cook at a guest ranch. Prior to that she mostly wrote and way before that she cooked at a chateau in France. Eventually the ranch went belly up, but Paula fell so hard for Texas that she bought a ranch of her own in the Nueces Canyon. But this cookbook features dishes she created for the guest ranch and her experiences there.
The recipes. Well, I haven't tried any yet. Several appeal to me. But they should appeal to any and everyone. They are not fancied up recipes with exotic, expensive, or difficult-to-locate ingredients. Texas Tofu Scramble, Devilish Eggs with Texas Tapenade, Gulf Ceviche, and Enchildas Verde made my list of dishes to try. One thing to mention about the recipes: The font is different and larger in the list of ingredients, so that makes it easier to tally in your mind whether you have items on hand.
The photography is exquisite. Besides the typical food porn shots, there are dozens of other cowgirl-on-the-farm shots that provide an exquisite ambiance to the book. Anymore, a cookbook must have compelling photography for me to want to read it; want to own it. Shelly Strazis is a Florida native. Whether that has anything to do with the quality of light she captures, or her lovey perspective, I'll never know. As if you couldn't tell from Cowboy Cuisine, cowboys are one of her favorite subjects. Animals, too.
Cannot go on another sentence without mentioning the writing. Paula Disbrowe is a food writer, of course. Interspersed among the recipes are slice-of-life essays on developing a relationship with her hip-shooting postmistress, who on a day when Paula declared she was a mess, Sharon replied: "Well, country girls are rougher," raising chickens, bottle feeding goats, avoiding scorpions; all the finer points of ranch living. Then there's her growing menagerie, cowboys she's known, and other scintillating topics. Sigh. I want more tales from the ranch. More stories of adorable baby animals escaping their fences. A farmgirl's life is for me.
I like how she things about desserts:
I don't like glop, shifting layers of mousse, or an avalanche of sauces. Carefully crafted constructions made by pastry chefs are usually lost on me. I like to keep dessert simple.
In the marketing of things, these days, we're taught that what customers/readers want is an experience. And this book is an experience. It has it all. While the recipes are tempting, I keep leafing through the book like it was a Sears & Roebuck catalog, full of strange and wondrous images. Reading Paula's essays is the best part. It's easy to chart her and her man's transformation from city slickers to tried and true ranchers.