Book Review

Apr. 5th, 2017 09:06 pm
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Since I am hoping to get this community up and working again, I think I need to post more than just occasionally.

Today, I'm going to begin a series of book reviews, for books that might be handy for anyone writing fiction set in a time period which would use less modern methods. I will also review cookbooks specializing in certain time periods, or books on such topics as foraging or dressing and cooking wild game. This sort of information can be valuable in adding a realistic touch to your story.

The first book I've chosen is The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking: One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or Campfire by  William Rubel. The book is very expensive, and I do not own it myself, but check it out every chance I can get from the library. I recommend that route, and if your own public library does not carry it, there is always InterLibrary Loan. Even the used copies from Amazon are a lot, though one day I do hope to get my own copy.

The book is coffee table size, and weighs in at 295 (including index) pages of solid information. Even if you never have the opportunity to cook at a campfire or hearth yourself, it will give you enough information to make it sound like you know what you're writing about.

There is an illustrated list of the basic tools needed to cook at a hearth or over an open fire; most everything in the list is historical with the exception of Kevlar gloves. :-) This is followed by illustrations of the methods that can be used on a hearth, including string roasting, stand roasting and spit roasting, baking in a pot buried in ashes, baking on a griddle over embers, or grilling at the hearthside are some of the methods shown.

The basic information doesn't stop there. Mr. Rubel tells us about the differing temperatures of a fire and how to manage it, and how to manage cooking several dishes for one meal. All this before the recipes begin. And there are 100 of them.

The one I am choosing to share here is one of the simplest. I really do hope to get the chance to try it one day.

Roasted Eggs
(Recipe behind the cut)

BASIC METHOD: Ash baking
PRIMARY VENUES: Firebox or hearth
ALTERNATE VENUES: Barbecue, campfire or bread oven

Eggs roasted overnight: Bank the fire for the night by covering embers and unburned wood with a layer of at least 2 inches (5 cm.) of ash. Use the shovel to dig a trench in moderately hot ash a few inches from the banked embers. Place the eggs in the trench and cover with at least 2 inches (5 cm) of moderately hot ash. Dig the eggs out of the ash in the morning, run under cold water, and either peel and eat, or reserve for later use.

Not all the recipes are quite as simple as that, but many are. I've used details from this book in a number of my stories, including "Trotter", in which the hobbit cooks a meal to impress the Rangers, and "Ember-roasted Artichokes" in which those particular veggies are discovered in Ithilien and prepared as a treat for the Fellowship.

I hope you'll find this review useful and will let me know if it is. Also, if you know of a book that would be useful in researching cooking methods for stories, please feel free to post about it here.
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