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Book Notes – The Historic Kentucky Kitchen

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Historic Kentucky Kitchen_final.inddThe Historic Kentucky Kitchen. By Deirdre A. Scaggs and Andrew W. McGraw. (2013. Pp. 163. $29.95. Hardcover. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. 663 South Limestone Street, Lexington KY 40508-4008. www.kentuckypress.com) ISBN: 978-0-8131-4249-4.

When the Holidays roll around, we are so quick to whip out the traditional family recipes to make our festivities special. And, while I wouldn’t trade those traditional family recipes for anything, I love using the Holidays as an excuse to experiment with recipes from the past. In many cases, the recipes found in archives and libraries represent family traditions from branches that are no longer around to celebrate. Such is the case with Scaggs’ and McGraw’s book from last year: The Historic Kentucky Kitchen.

Yes, this is a recipe book based on recipes from past Kentucky cooks. However, the recipes themselves come from family collections owned by the University of Kentucky’s Special Collection Department. At first, this disappointed me. I was hoping for a statewide representational title that included recipes from cooks around the state. Instead, I was seeing multiple recipes from some of the same women – mostly from the Central Kentucky region – and many with a UK connection (McVey, Funkhouser, etc.) Not every recipe fit into that category, but several did, and I looked for reassurance that this was a broader representation than I first thought.

The solution to this misunderstanding was found in the “Selected Resources” section at the end of the book. There you will find a lovely annotated list of the collections used for recipe selection. Instead of just covering the cooking nature of the collection, the annotations include family profiles and scope of content. Some of the family collections utilized include: Scott D. Breckinridge Jr Collection, Henry Clay Memorial Foundation Papers, John Sherman Cooper Collection, English Family Papers, William D. Funkhouser Papers, Hart Family Papers, Frances Jewell McVey Papers, Parrish Family Papers, Preston-Johnston Family Papers, Seaton Family Papers, Spurr Family Papers, and the Thompson Papers.

Overall, the book is quite handy when preparing older recipes for today’s consumers. Especially since the co-author (McGraw) is a sous chef who helped work out the quirks in preparation and alterations. The commentary about how the recipe turns out is very helpful as you experiment with these recycled recipe editions. One of my favorite elements of the book appears at the beginning: a translation of older recipe terms into current measurements. Now I know that a pinch or dash is roughly 1/8 of a teaspoon!

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