Home on the Range
A Culinary History of the American West
by Cathy Luchetti, Villard Books, 238 pages.
Luchetti has drawn from letters, diaries, travelers’ accounts, and cookbooks to produce her culinary history, and although her writing is uneven, her subject is endlessly fascinating. Her scope is broader than her title and subtitle suggest; in addition to cowboy fare, she describes the food aboard immigrant ships, in the Army, on farms, in towns, at church suppers. She touches on Native American, Spanish-American, and African-American cooking, and she includes recipes for invalids and antidotes to poisoning.
Most of the recipes are intended to be read rather than followed: To make coffei for one hundred Army men, “Take five pounds of roasted coffee, grind, and mix with six eggs. …” For barbecued squirrel, “Put some slices of fat bacon in an oven. Lay the squirrels on them and lay two slices of bacon on top.” The photographs—of cooks, kitchens, restaurants, picnics, campfires, barbecues—make a pleasant accompaniment to the rest of the meal.