What makes a great cookbook? Easy to follow instructions, obtainable ingredients, lots of photographs, and a large font are all important. I suppose tasty recipes help too, but my favorite part of a cookbook is its stories. I love the history of a recipe. What inspired it? Where did the author first eat or create it? Did she us artichokes because that was all she had in her pantry? Did his grandmother make this particular chicken soup when he was sick as a child? Did her Indian nanny have these nuts as an after school snack? It's the back story that sells me on trying a recipe. Many of the cookbooks I read come from the new nonfiction shelf at my town's public library. When a new one comes in, I will flip through the pages. The longer the paragraph after the title and before the list of ingredients for each recipe, the more likely I am to check out the book.
I looked through the cookbooks on my home bookshelves to share a favorite this Foodie Friday and I found one with lots of good stories and tidbits. It is River Run Cookbook by Jimmy and Maya Kennedy and Marialisa Calta with a forward by David Mamet. Yes, that David Mamet. River Run is a tiny restaurant in rural Vermont with some very loyal local patrons, including Mamet. The menu of the restaurant and the contents of this book are largely Southern comfort favorites with Northern touches. There's Fried Catfish, Grits, Pulled Pork, Coca Cola Cake, and a number of items featuring black-eyed peas to name a few. I'm not a fan of black-eyed peas, but I'm still a big fan of this book. It gives the reader a sense of the small town community from whence it came. Where the recipes originated and/or which customers and employees favor them are revealed along with lots of black and white pictures.
Flipping through River Run Cookbook, I spotted a recipe for "Really Big Buttermilk Biscuits" that I've never tried. As I have a few cups of buttermilk in the fridge, purchased to make some lovely lemon raspberry muffins on Mother's Day, I think I'll give it a go. I do love me some biscuits! I'll let you know how they turn out. Hopefully that'll be a story with a happy ending.