food

« May 31, 2013

Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook

Culinary chronicler Robb Walsh reveals a state's cuisine
Review by Mick Vann

Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook

by Robb Walsh
Ten Speed Press, 304 pp., $25

For 20 years or more, food writer and culinary historian Robb Walsh has branded himself as the culinary expert on all things Texan, successfully carving out a place as the definitive source. He's published a slew of award-winning cookbooks covering a wide range of topics, but with Texas Eats his knowledge of cooking in Texas coalesces into a unified whole, providing a colorful culinary amalgam of history, anecdote, and 200-plus rock-solid recipes from the five culinary regions of the state. He divides the state into East, West, Central/Hill Country, South, and Coastal Bend, the most obvious separation geographically and ethnically. Rather than sort by courses, Walsh organizes by category, such as seafood, Tex-Mex, etc., with a rough alignment by historical timeline. The arrangement works well for what can be a widely varied yet cohesive cuisine.

Each section opens with a historical section to frame the populace, the cooking styles, and the ingredients. For example, there is an illuminating section describing life on a Texas shrimp boat, with details about bycatch and what used to be considered trash fish by pre-Vietnamese shrimper standards. The recipes included here would make Bubba Gump proud. There are sidebars in each section that feature well-known food producers, culinarians, and restaurants, and the recipes are derived from famous cooks both professional and casual, from winners in local cooking contests as well as from Walsh's own research. The numerous and lush illustrations reveal the delectable character of Texas cuisine.

All of the standards are included, as well as some of the more modern fusion dishes that combine elements of two ethnic cuisines. The bottom line is that the recipes are easy to follow, not too fussy, and yield damn good food that any Texan granny would be proud to serve. Walsh has managed to produce a cookbook that is honest to the varied foods of Texas and shows why Texas is "a whole 'nother country." Published in March of last year, this is the Texas cookbook that I refer back to in my own kitchen, and the one I give as a gift to non-Texans.

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