It's barely snowing this morning. The first we've had this season. Temperatures were way warm through October and November. I'm amazed when parents let their children wear shorts to the grocery store--or anywhere--on Thanksgiving Day. It's not like we live in California, Hawaii, or Florida, this is the Mountain South, people!
How appropriate then that I'm looking at Jane Snow Cooks: Spirited Recipes & Stories. The bulk of the recipes appeared in her column in the Akron Beacon Journal between 1982 and 2006. So what is a cookbook about recipes from Akron doing on a southern food blog?
Simple. My husband is a first-generation southerner. His parents are from Canton, Ohio, but he was born here. We visit the Buckeye state once, sometimes twice a year, if we're lucky. I'm fond of his Cantonese family. Some of their ideas about food are strange, but they mean well. Basically, they like what they know. And that's about it.
What I like about Snow's approach to her column is that she made the recipes accessible to everyone. These aren't fancy schmancy dishes that take hours of prep or call for exotic ingredients that two-thirds of the US hasn't heard of. I wish there were more stories like the one that she shared in her introduction. She wrote:
Workers at a Northeast Ohio auto factory once staged a month-long protest when the couldn't get the Akron Beacon Journal's food section delivered at work. "A lot of us are bachelors, a protester told me by phone. We need your recipes! Other recipes are too complicated."
She kept that audience in mind with every recipe she developed and included in her column. Most are normal sorts of items you'd expect from a community cookbooks. But Red Velvet Cake in Akron? I swear. It's in the first chapter, "Local Favorites." Snow wrote that the cake origins is rumored to be in the South. Yet, many restaurants in Northeast Ohio feature the dessert on their menus.
Who knew? Not I. I've never had RVC in Ohio. Heck, I introduced Ian's family to cannoli. They had no idea. And Canton is filled with descendants of Italian immigrants. Granted, his family--both sides in fact--are almost the same mix as mine, Irish and German. Maybe that explains it.
Every year there's a new deep-fried thing. Deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Oreos, deep fried Snickers. You get the idea. We encounter them at the Appalachian Fair. I admit that deep fried holds great appeal to me, generally. As a sauerkraut lover, you bet I'd try the sauerkraut balls featured on page 39. It's a mixture of sauerkraut and ground ham and flour that's thrown into a vat of oil and fried. Rather reminiscent of sausage balls except for the cheese and method of cooking.
I had to learn of this delicacy from a book. This is what I mean when I say that his family is strange about food. They have their favorite restaurants, and that's it. They're otherwise unadventurous, and usually gravitate toward the Amish fare popular with tourists, or old favorite diner-type joints that they recall from their childhood. That isn't bad, I love a good diner. But we always dine at the same place each trip north.
Sauerkraut balls are very popular. Snow wrote that they're on the menu of every joint in Akron, from the "ritziest to the humblest." In fact, the dish was voted the city's official food by Journal readers in 1996.
The variety of recipes in Jane Snow Cooks is amazing. There are Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Persian, Vietnamese, Moroccan, Indonesian, French, Cuban, Indian, Cajun, and Italian dishes. This is probably the best all purpose cookbook I've encountered. No doubt about it, the book would make a perfect gift for just about anyone, but I'm thinking of all the bachelors and bachelorettes I know who would eat well from this book all year long.