Today I welcome a guest post – a book review – to the blog from Mary-Denise Smith. Mary-Denise runs mdWordsmith a copyediting and proofreading service for food writers and bloggers, though she also loves to write about food herself. Despite Mary-Denise being based near Washington DC, we met at Food Blogger Connect in London 2012, and have stayed in contact since.
Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, by Cathy Barrow
2014, WW Norton, available at your local bookseller and on Amazon.co.uk
When Cathy Barrow’s much-anticipated book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, thumped down on my doorstep, I was beside myself with glee. I’d been hearing about the book for more than a year, and at last, here it was – thick, heavy and gorgeous!
Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry is a comprehensive guide to canning, with measurement conversion charts handily placed on the end papers, clear, thorough instructions, and glorious photographs. The book is divided by preservation method – water bath; pressure canning; salt, water, smoke and air; and a final chapter on preserving milk by making cheese. Cathy’s wit, calm voice and enthusiasm shine through every page. It’s like having her at your elbow, doling out tidbits, advice, and assurance.
Cathy began her blog mrswheelbarrow.com in 2009, and between that and teaching (I took a charcuterie class from her that was a life changer), the idea for the Practical Pantry was born.
In her longer-than-usual introduction, Cathy writes in an authentic voice and hits the high notes of the things that I care about: carefully grown ingredients, thoughtful consumerism, lightening one’s footprint on the earth.
Cathy tells about her journey from occasional canning of family favorites to beginning to look at the produce in the grocery store labeled as grown in another hemisphere. She began to think about the impact of hauling produce all that way, the packaging and the quality of the food itself. She began to shop at farmers markets, speaking with the producers, making note of the parade of fruits and vegetables as the season progressed. Preserving books became her bedtime reading.
As she read and canned, she began to draw the connection between home canning and having a pantry plan that was organized and thoughtful. Now she and husband Dennis (“Without whom there would be no Mrs. Wheelbarrow” – what a delightful dedication) eat from the pantry all year long.
As you read through the Practical Pantry, one thing will lead to another, and as Cathy suggests, a plan for your own practical pantry will emerge.
There are plenty of recipes, and plainly put, they rock. From basic tomato sauce to “quickles” to conserves to duck confit, there are practical and fanciful offerings for satisfying meals compiled from the pantry shelves and potluck standouts. If you are a capsicum fan, you will be thrilled to know that Cathy is, too.
As is proper in a book on food preservation, Cathy devotes a lot of space to food safety. In level-headed terms, she states the basic rules, then clearly explains why the rule is there.
I can hardly contain myself, just reading the recipes, and come next canning season, I’ll just set up a cot beside the kitchen door so I don’t waste any time going up and down the stairs!
I have a shelf full of cookbooks about canning and preserving. Cathy’s book shoves most of them into the “donate to library sale” box.
I am looking forward to reading this book in due course since preserving is getting rather trendy these days. Rightly so – a great way to use up a glut of seasonal local fruit and veg.
Do you have any recommended new reads for 2015?0