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There are three rules that you need to follow to become a Critter. "The first rule is that there are no rules." -Pamela D. Lyles, author of Da Cajn Critter: The Lifestyles, The Rules and Makin' Groceries
What a delightful cookbook! As soon as I saw the term "makin' groceries" I had a pretty good feeling that it would be, because you see, when I lived in New Orleans, I learned all about faire son marché, “to do one’s market shopping.” (Faire meaning “to do” or “to make.”)
Being a Mississippi girl living in New Orleans, the first time I heard that term, I had no idea what in the world those gals were talking about, and I admit, that even after hearing a brief definition, at first I didn't quite fully grasp the meaning of it. After living there a few months though, I quickly learned that it was not merely just the act of going to the store to buy groceries, but more a process - beginning with deciding what one would be cooking, and all the way to the actual process of cooking it, with the trip to the grocery store simply a single step in the middle. The author's description perfectly explains why I love to browse the shelves of our local Louisiana owned Rouse's Supermarket, just like I used to at Schwegmann's Grocery in New Orleans. Makin' groceries is an entire experience.
At first glance, you might think that Da Cajn Critter would be focused solely on Cajun recipes, and yes, while there are some of those, this cookbook is so much more than that. It is a compilation of favorite family recipes. Recipes that contain common ingredients, easy to find and in fact, often pantry staples, with simple instructions and just downright good, southern food.
The author grew up in historic Uptown New Orleans, and learned much of the kitchen at the elbow of the family cook who stoked her interest in food and cooking. That growing interest proved her worthy over the years to be deserving of secret family recipes that birthed this wonderful cookbook. When Lyles mentioned that she has a dining room table that easily seats 20, and an oven that can hold 6 cookie sheets, well, I knew she was a cook to be trusted!
While Da Cajn Critter is a typical community style cookbook that is absent of photography, it is filled with recipes not only from her friends and relatives and her life in New Orleans, but those that also reflect a wide ethnic diversity in the kitchen. Alongside the likes of what she calls family heirloom recipes such as Grandma Bea's Christmas Tipsy Pudding, the author's own Dirty Rice Dressing, Aunt Pam's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Mama Bea's Cheese Cookies, Aunt Norma's Buttermilk Pound Cake and Uncle Alan's After Thanksgiving Gumbo - a perfect dish for that after Christmas turkey carcass - you'll also find traditional recipes we all love like Classic Lasagna, Barbecue Ribs, Mom's Meat Loaf, Chicken Cacciatore, Mama Bea's and Dorothy's Cherry Pie, and Cream Cheese and Caramel Brownies.
There are the familiar southern dishes like Red Beans & Rice, Jambalaya, Shrimp Po'boys, Sweet Potato Casserole, Pecan Pie, and Banana Pudding. And with Christmas coming up, you'll find lots of holiday goodies there too - Cheese Grits, Pomegranate Salad, Fruit Salad with Citrus Dressing, Peppermint Shakes, Spiced Tea, Creole Roast Leg of Lamb, Cajun Fried Turkey, Toni and Eddie’s Ham, Jack’s Fudge, and of course, Red Velvet Cake.
There are also some fun recipes like Mardi Gras Jello Shots and a Spicy Cajun Martini. And you'll even find Cajun Hanukkah Latkes, Charosets, Lisa’s Noodle Kugel and Schnecken.
I had a difficult time deciding on a recipe to try for my review because there are so many that sounded so good to me! I literally have dozens of recipes tabbed with post it notes that I want to try. Since it's the holidays, I finally settled on Janet's Rocky Road Squares - made with melted chocolate, marshmallows, sweetened condensed milk and peanuts, I just so happened to have all of those ingredients on hand. It's a perfect treat for the sweets tray over the holidays.
This is just a fun cookbook that is loaded with absolutely yummy sounding recipes, tidbits, stories and a little traditional Louisiana lagniappe - some helpful, like a great wine pairing guide, and tips for how to buy the freshest bread (did you know those colored twist ties had meaning?) and some just for fun, like the North versus South pronunciation chart I know you'll get a kick out of.
This is the kind of cookbook that I treasure. Perfect for gift giving - stick a copy of this in a little basket, pick out a recipe and include the non-perishable ingredients and you have one fantastic Christmas gift that anybody would treasure. It's not too late to order it right from Amazon and in just a couple of days you will have it to gift, or to add to your own collection.
You need a copy of this cookbook - and one lucky winner will have the chance to win a copy. Leave any comment and you're entered to win. Don't want to wait? Or want a copy to give to your favorite cook for Christmas? Click this link and get you one right now, ya hear? Promise you'll be happy, happy cher!
Planned Television Arts provided me with a complimentary copy of this cookbook hoping that I might review it and share my opinion with my readers. They also are providing a complimentary copy to one of my readers who will be selected at random on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 12:00 noon CST. Your comment is your entry. Open to U.S. residents only please.