My latest cookbook collaboration is in stock and shipping out now! You can buy it here. It’s a sort of a hybrid cookbook and essay collection. There are essays about different holiday food traditions in Maryland by Kara Mae Harris and 20 coordinating new and adapted recipes developed by me. Here is the blurb Harris wrote to describe the book:
Indulge in a Kinkling on Fat Tuesday; celebrate Passover and Easter in East Baltimore; taste cookies from the oldest Maryland cookbook; be the first to visit neighbors on New Year’s Day in St. Mary’s County; engage in Christmas mayhem and blame the eggnog; find out why the Frostburg post office smells like saffron in December; stuff your Thanksgiving turkey with oysters from the Eastern Shore, and please, don’t forget the sauerkraut!
When local Maryland cookbook collector, Old Line Plate blogger, and food history enthusiast Kara Mae Harris contacted me last year about writing the cookbook and recipe half of Festive Maryland Recipes I was excited!
Harris had printed a book of her blog posts previously and she told me that people had been asking for recipes they could actually make at home, not the confusing historical recipes she wrote about. As Harris freely admits she has difficulty following a recipe and isn’t from the area so she knew she couldn’t do this book alone. She needed an experienced recipe developer so she asked me to develop 20 “modernized” recipes with headnotes and helpful tips to go with every one of her essays about the holiday food she found in Maryland cookbooks.
Long-time readers know my passion for regional recipes and my family’s deep history here in Baltimore. I also have a degree in history (my research was primarily focused on community groups here in Baltimore) and I don’t often get a chance to connect that rather specific background to my recipe development work in a formal way. Not to mention I couldn’t turn away a fellow Baltimore food person who needed my help!
I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking and Harris asked me to work for free in hopes that everyone she asked to donate work (designer Sara Tomko and illustrator Ben Claassen made the book gorgeous) would eventually be able to split profits from the sale of the book. That was scary and I haven’t broken even on the massive ingredient cost yet (much less the labor, eek!) but I took the leap.
This book devoured my world for months! Since it’s such a tiny niche, I don’t think most people realize how much work goes into recipe development, especially with the types of historical, regional, and no longer popular recipes Harris asked me to update. Not only did I want the recipes to be as accurate to the originals as I could but they also needed to be recipes people could easily recreate at home and actually want to eat.
This first step was to find out what some of these dishes Harris found in old Maryland cookbooks and sent me with scant information were actually supposed to look and taste like. Community cookbooks rarely have headnotes or any descriptions accompanying the frequently vaguely written recipes. That can create quite a mystery!
The research rabbit hole had me translating recipes and stories from Czech and Polish websites about kuba, learning too much about Welsh gingerbread, reading about doughnut parties in Frederick, Maryland, and deciding that I needed to ditch the (bizarrely popular in Maryland until fairly recently) traditional plum pudding and create an entirely new self-saucing pudding recipe that you didn’t need to buy a pudding mold from the UK to make.
I had to source ingredients like corned ham and greens just as they were going out of season. I went through more pounds of dried fruit than I could count. Some recipes had to remade many times and then I had to test each “final” recipe several times again to get it just right.
I think it was worth it because it is a book where you can not only read Harris’ essays about the local traditions but you really can make the dishes in your own home without archaic ingredients or measurements and know they’ve been tested in a modern kitchen.
The book layout is lovely–you get an essay about the Maryland history of the food and some vintage recipes and illustrations for color and context and then turn the page and there is an illustrated modernized recipe so you can make the dish at home.
It is always a joy to write a cookbook with recipes that you know will work and people would enjoy and these recipes in particular offer a peek into a part of Maryland’s culinary history many may have never heard about.
I hope you get a chance to read it yourself. Copies are available for sale on Harris’ website and you can request a copy from Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library system to read for free, at home!