I'll Have What They're Having
Legendary Local Cuisine

I'll Have What They're Having
by Linda Stradley
Globe Pequot Press, 2002

Much of America's culture and history is preserved and recorded in the meals prepared in its kitchens, boarding houses, cafes, bakeries and fine restaurants. Robert E. Lee Cake in the South, Trout Hemingway in Michigan, Hangtown Fry in California, and Senate Bean Soup in Washington, D.C., are examples of local cuisine shaped by historical figures or events.

This fascinating book profiles 130 examples of distinctive American regional fare, from Akutaq (Eskimo Ice Cream) in Alaska to Whoopie Pies in Maine.  Histories, preparation tips, and recipes are included for each dish.

Because America was settled by immigrants in communities and regions that were largely isolated from each other, Old World cuisines were adapted to indigenous foods in distinct ways that reflected the nationalities and customs of the settlers. Some of these localized cuisines have been lost, but a surprising number can still be found, as Linda Stradley's book demonstrates.

"Many people think that American food has become homogenized and nationalized," Stradley says, "but this book shows that regional cuisine is very much alive. It has expanded to include new and exciting foods and dishes that we now call our own."

Travel to the southeastern states and you may find Hoppin' John, Moon Pies, Burgoo, Collard Greens, Syllabub, Chitlins and Scuppernong Grape Pie on the menu. Go up to New England and it could be Johnnycakes, Boiled Lobster, Hasty Pudding and Leather Aprons. In the Rocky Mountains you could be eating Buffalo Burgers and Rocky Mountain Oysters. Up by the Great Lakes they serve Gooey Butter Cake, Persimmon Pudding, Chicken Booyah and Walleye Sandwiches.

Stradley, who co-authored another regional cookbook called "What's Cooking America," is a cook and writer who lives in Oregon, where they make Huckleberry Pie and Pacific Coast Clam Chowder, dine on Hazelnut Sturgeon and Pan-Fried Smelt, and treat themselves every so often to an Oregon Truffle or some Northwest Apple Candy.

While not comprehensive by any means, I'll Have What They're Having is a fun and interesting survey of America's local foods and dishes.

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I'll Have What They're Having
Legendary Local Cuisine
by Linda Stradley


     Paczki (pronounced poonch-key) are sometimes referred to as the "Cadillacs" of doughnuts. The word paczki (plural; singular is paczek) comes from the Polish word pak, which means "bud." Paczki are circular, like the buds on trees, and they also expand, or grow, when fried. They are fat, round, deep-fried rolls served either plain or filled with fruit or jelly, and then sugar coated. Properly made, they look like huge baseballs.

    On Paczki Day, or Fat Tuesday (the last day of feasting before Lent), paczki lovers trek to their favorite bakeries for a taste of the sweet pastry. Before refrigerators, paczki were enjoyed as a last-minute fling and a way to use up perishables such as lard, eggs, and cream, which were prohibited during Lent.

   Although paczki began as a Polish tradition and were brought to the Great Lakes region in the 1900s. their popularity has spread, and they are now a very trendy food served just once a year. Bakers work around the clock to make paczki for customers. Fans of paczki buy them throughout the week before Ash Wednesday, and they are especially popular on Fat Tuesday. They have crossed ethnic boundaries and are now loved by everyone.


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