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At Home on the Rangeby Margaret Yardley Potter
Synopses & Reviews
Recently, while moving into a new house, Elizabeth Gilbert unpacked some boxes of family books that had been sitting in her mother's attic for decades. Among the old, dusty hardcovers was a book called At Home on the Range (or, How To Make Friends with Your Stove) by Gilbert's great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter. Having only been peripherally aware of the volume, Gilbert dug in with some curiosity, and soon found that she had stumbled upon a book far ahead of its time. In her workaday cookbook, Potter espoused the importance of farmer's markets and ethnic food (Italian, Jewish, and German), derided preservatives and culinary shortcuts, and generally celebrated a devotion to seeking out new epicurean adventures. Potter takes car trips out to Pennsylvania Dutch country to eat pickled pork products, and during World War II she cajoles local poultry farmers into saving buckets of coxcombs for her so she can try to cook them in the French manner. She takes trips to the eastern shore of Maryland, where she learns to catch and prepare eels so delicious, she says, they must be "devoured in a silence almost devout." Part scholar — she includes a great recipe from 1848 for boiled sheep head — and part crusader for a more open food conversation than currently existed, it's not hard to see from where Elizabeth Gilbert inherited both her love of food, and her warm, infectious prose.
Featuring a comprehensive and moving introduction from Potter's great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Gilbert, At Home on the Range is an eminently usable and humorous cookbook. But it's also more than that: it's an heirloom, an into-the-wee-hours dinner with relatives and ancestors, a perfect gift for anybody with a stove or a mother.
"Author Elizabeth Gilbert (A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage) does a wonderful service by bringing back the opinionated, modern-for-its-time cookbook of her eccentric great-grandmother 'Gima' Yardley Potter, first published in 1947. A woman who came from a wealthy Main Line Philadelphia family, married a profligate lawyer in the plentiful 1920s, and gradually had to come down in the world, Gima discarded the cook within the first three years of her marriage and energetically took charge of her own kitchen, learning from trial and error the art of entertaining myriad surprise guests her husband brought home and generally making-do while keeping everybody happy and well fed. Her upbeat tone that so impressed Gilbert when she finally read the cookbook braces the reader delightfully, from Gima's merry use of calf's brains and cockscombs ('with wine') to relaying how to make what was then a rather curious, palate-wowing ethnic find called pizza. Chapters are devoted lovingly to what foods best to bring hospitalized friends, mastering cocktails, and organizing emergency meals and effortless entertaining. In her bright, determined tone ('Is your cigarette finished? Let's go'), Yardley Potter assures us a generation before Julia Child that we can tackle bouillabaisse, preserves, bread, and grandmother's sacred sponge cake." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"This book is a beautiful time capsule that looks back to the roots of American gastronomy, when the values of gardening and fresh ingredients were the primary inspiration. Margaret Yardley Potter's warm, witty stories and recipes show us that our great-grandmothers instinctually understood that food is central to a life well-lived." Alice Waters
"When first published in 1947, At Home on the Range, by Margaret Yardley Potter, must have seemed a shockingly non-girly truth-talking cookbook and life guide. Read today — as introduced in a McSweeney's edition by Potter's great-granddaughter, Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert — it is both artifact and artfully useful. Choice bit: Potter who died in 1955 at age 62, liked to invite guests not for dinner but rather for breakfast — 'en neglige.' We're not surprised that Gilbert, who celebrates her 'Gima' throughout, comes from such feisty stock." Sara Nelson, Oprah magazine
While unpacking boxes of old family books recently, Elizabeth Gilbert rediscovered a dusty, yellowed hardcover called At Home on the Range, originally written by her great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter. Having only been peripherally aware of the volume, Gilbert dug in with some curiosity, and soon found that she had stumbled upon a book far ahead of its time. Part scholar and part crusader for a more open food conversation, Potter espoused the importance of farmers markets and ethnic food (Italian, Jewish, and German), derided preservatives and culinary shortcuts, and generally celebrated a devotion to epicurean adventures. Reading this practical and humorous cookbook, its not hard to see that Gilbert inherited her great-grandmothers love of food and her warm, infectious prose.
Proceeds from this book benefit ScholarMatch (scholarmatch.org).
About the Author
Margaret Yardley Potter's book is culled from a lifetime of cooking and entertaining in her home, from the 1920s through World War II. In addition to being a cooking columnist for the Wilmington Star, she also painted, sold dresses, assisted in the birth of four grandchildren, and took up swing piano.
Elizabeth Gilbert is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Eat, Pray, Love, now a major motion picture. In 2008, Time magazine named Elizabeth as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
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Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature