Cookbooks, when they are well-written and filled with quality photography, can be highly evocative of times and places. They can take you to countries and cultures to which you have never been, and bring a part of that unknown experience into your life in the form of images, flavors and smells.
Fewer cookbooks still can do you the most wonderful favor: take you home.
As a Hoosier boy, raised in the cornfields of southern Indiana, I remember a childhood of fresh meats and vegetables, almost all raised within bike-riding distance of my house. I went to school with the farmers' children, picked my own vegetables, timed meat purchases to the seasonal slaughter of farm animals, kept track of hunting and fishing seasons (and my friends who were coming home with venison and bluegill and perch)...effectively living the "locovore" lifestyle long before it became popular.
From this same small town in Indiana, Daniel Orr, one of my former childhood ice hockey teammates, eventually left to become a renowned chef, working in three star Michelin restaurants in Europe and eventually helming such culinary icons as La Grenouille in New York City, among others.
Dan has now published a cookbook called FARMfood (Indiana University Press, 2009) that is a loving, masterful tribute to that food of my youth -- and has proven that its gorgeous freshness and simplicity is attainable today, not just behind the corn silk curtain of Indiana, but across the country in cities and small towns, alike.
FARMfood is an exquisite publication -- not only are the recipes amazing, but the photography and writing is as warm and embracing as the Midwestern people who grow and cook the food on which it focuses. I cannot recommend this book more highly; I literally am having one of those Julie and Julia moments where I want to cook every recipe in the book.
And as a further note, if you are ever in Bloomington, Indiana, you can go right to the fountainhead -- Dan has opened FARMBloomington, a restaurant where he serves the delectable delights he presents in his book.
If you know a foodie, a weekend cook, or anyone interested in living a greener, more sustainable life FARMfood is the cookbook to buy them (or yourself)!
Stay tuned for updates on my attempts to cook from this book. I can't wait to "go back home" to the roots of my Life of Food, courtesy of chef Dan Orr!