Book 2 of 7: A Garden Supper Tonight

This book is from my mother and she bought it while at Campbell Folk School with my niece. Together they learned to make pies and pie crust. Now I am not a huge fan of pie crust myself, since it’s basically flour and butter, but those that love pies apparently do well to take a class from this lady, Barbara Swell, who makes pie crusts look easy. They aren’t.

A Garden Supper TonightA Garden Supper Tonight, Barbara Swell

Started Christmas Day. Finished December 26.

This is an extremely curious book. It’s not so much a cookbook as a throwback to the old mountain ways circa the depression and before. Unfortunately, it reads like a manuscript. It’s not well designed. I thought perhaps it was an older book, because the design appeared to be early desktop publishing. Imagine my surprise to see it was 2009, not 1989. I was unaware that anyone used Benguiat anymore. There’s one font that I used to adore back in the 80s that I haven’t used in so long I no longer remember the name. The woman on the front of the book is holding up some canned fruit. This is a hint that there will be a lot of references to canning in this book. The inside has one column text within a border around the page and the way of differentiating what the text is about is to change the size. For me, I found this disconcerting. I’d use several columns, or perhaps a serif font if I were designing it. The book is organized into months, with a designed header (they make “Month of” and the name of the month fill the same width) and some cartoons on the outside. The idea is that the recipes within those pages are the types of food you will be getting out of your garden.

Anyway, the design of the book, for me, is totally distracting from the content of the book, which is quirky and odd and strange, yet entertaining. It is mostly recipes gleaned from much older sources (between 1880-1930) with some more modern recipes mixed in. However, she does tell you early on that she doesn’t own a measuring cup, so the recipes can be fairly vague. Apparently, they didn’t have many measuring cups in the past either, because the measurements might be “butter the size of half an egg.” I guess they didn’t exactly have scales or markings on the side of their butter sticks back in the day!

Clearly, I’m not a country girl. I’ve come a long way from eating processed foods, but I doubt I will be eating dandelion greens any time soon. There’s an interesting recipe for making bread out of trees, in case your larder runs really super low. She also encourages you to grist your own grains. A mock pork recipe sounds intriguing as it’s basically a stuffed squash. A good way to use up squash if you garden (which I don’t, I know I probably should but I’ve tried with little luck here on this one.) There are things in here I’ve never dreamed of using in a recipe or have even heard of: nasturnium greens, garlic scapes nd kirsch come to mind.

There are also some suggestions as to keeping pests out of your garden, both which the author publishes as humorous. One is for keeping crows out and involves boiling train oil and turpentine, then soaking rags and hanging it in your garden. The other involves mixing human urine, lime and manure together until it’s the consistency of paint and putting it at the base of your apple trees.

I will probably try a few recipes in here: many of them are pretty basic but the Carrot Ginger Soup is worth a go to be certain as well as a few others. She admits she’s stepping into dangerous ground with the biscuit recipes, but I am not a biscuit expert so I might try those as well. Mostly, however, this book is for historical record and reference. It makes me grateful not to live in times before the grocery store!

Grade: B. Design: D.


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