American Farm Food

The author originally intended write a book celebrating farm life, but ended up with a book celebrating American farm food.

| August/September 1991

  • 127-american-farm-food-02-author.jpg
    Author Sarlin switched from writing a memoir to writing a cookbook when she realized many of her stories centered on food.
  • 127-american-farm-food-01-book-cover-alt.jpg
    The American farm food celebrated in Food From an American Farm represents a style of cooking that has fallen out of favor.

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  • 127-american-farm-food-01-book-cover-alt.jpg

When Janeen Aletta Sarlin set out to collect a few of her family's recipes, she probably didn't know she would create a treasure for generations to come. And not just for her family.

Food From An American Farm (Simon & Schuster, $24.95) is a wonderful look at farm food, complete with trimmings. Reading this cookbook is as fun as eating "Best Frosted Chocolate Creams" and as satisfying as "Great-Grandmother Broadwater's Chicken and Biscuits." Sarlin intended to create a book that celebrated the life of an American farm. She ended up with a celebration of farm food—a way of cooking that has fallen too far out of fashion in these low-fat, cholesterol-free days. In Food from an American Farm, the day starts with a hearty meal of "Brown and White Breakfast Fries," "Stove-Top Omelet," and perhaps some "Homemade Sausage with Gram's Down Home Flavor." In these days of 101 new ways with NutraSweet, it's comforting to know that the only eggbeaters used in this book were in Grandma's hands, whipping up a hearty batch of "Farmer-Style Crumbled Bacon and Eggs."

Sarlin also shares with us the stories behind several recipes, many of which are as delightful as the recipes themselves. Her section on cookies (each recipe being her "absolute favorite cookie," says Sarlin with complete sincerity), is prefaced by a story concerning her mother's habit of licking an oatmeal batter-smeared bowl while doing a convincing horse imitation involving "chewing, snorting, neighing, and stomping around on all fours."

Sarlin's description of basic methods, along with her inclusion of master recipes, is very helpful to those who are rediscovering the food of their youth. After all, not all of us were fortunate enough to grow up with Gram's black book (an unlined hardcover that Sarlin's grandmother wrote her recipes in, often with no detailed methodology—just misspelled ingredients), including techniques for perfect "Potato-Water Bread" and a hearty "Beef Broth."

As culinary trends leave the lean-and-mean California cuisine of the '80s behind, it's refreshing to see that the continuing search for perfect preparation of wholesome and natural ingredients has now ended right where it all started—on the American farm.

In the following excerpt from her book, Janeen describes the meals and the memories that make farm life special.

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