Cookbook Review: Martha’s American Food

by Melody Kettle

Martha Stewart’s 77th book, Martha’s American Food, is a culinary travelogue that celebrates the best of these United States. Broken up regionally, the recipes and stories highlight what makes each part of this country unique, while at the same time create a desire to not only want to try the food from far away places but meet the people for whom these dishes are everyday food.

The book opens with a section called “All American” featuring classics like blueberry pancakes, pot roast, and carrot cake. These recipes are fairly comment but , the “backstory” accompanying each recipe, describing the history and origins of these classics, makes the seemingly ordinary extraordinary.

From there Martha visits each region of the country with a collection of cocktails, entrees, side dishes and treats that stir up a pride of place that goes beyond our own neighborhoods to the entire country. You know that feeling of national pride you get listening to the Stars and Stripes Forever by the Boston Pops on Independence Day? Martha creates that same feeling here, in a cookbook.

The Northeast includes a good sampling of New England’s seafood favorites  and a dessert collection that include New York Cheesecake and Boston Cream Pie. In the South we’re introduced to Low Country and Cajun specialties, plus a few things worthy of Derby Day. The Southwest section has a Tex-Mex accent but breaks from the usual suspects to include Tamale Pie, Barbequed Brisket and Spiced Pumpkin Flan. The West rounds out the book with entrée salads, salmon, and artichokes taking center stage.

With 200 recipes, American Food is more of a volume as opposed to a book. Listing the recipes would be a cumbersome task.   The book is so large that if Ryan Seacrest stood on a copy he might have a chance to play for the Lakers! It’s that big. But its more just a collection of recipes, American food is a story of a people who found interesting and sometimes unusual foods and created incredible meals with them. The stories are about more than food, its about a nation that, time and time again, has found itself in interesting situations and created wonderful things as a result.

My second reaction after reading Martha’s American Food,( right after “I need to buy a treadmill because I know I am going to make most everything in this book), was OMG, I understand why people love Martha, this book is fantastic. I picked the book up this morning and started reading it in the gardens at the Van Vleck house, lost all track of time, missed my deadline, and found myself inspired.

The book is available at both Watchung Booksellers and Williams Sonoma in Montclair. Flip through a couple pages before buying and I bet about 60% of the people who do so will find themselves in the supermarket buying ingredients to make one of the recipes within an hour of making the purchase.