Texas Cooking

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Editor's Choice: A Review

The Only Texas Cookbook by Linda West Eckhardt

I raised an eyebrow at the title of this book when I found it in one of Fredericksburg's little shops. Certainly, there are other Texas cookbooks -- and good ones. I happen to own quite a number of them, myself. So I sat down to read The Only Texas Cookbook with a certain amount of skepticism.

This book was the first authored by Linda West Eckhardt, a native of Hereford. It was published in 1981 P.F. (that's Pre-Fajita), has been reprinted several times since then, and is still very much in print. I started reading with the Foreword and didn't really put it down until I pulled up short at the Index some 275 pages later.

This is a great cookbook. Cook for the family or cook for guests, and you'll find what people love to eat among these pages. All the sections, from Appetizers to Desserts, are here, including Barbecue and Beans, Chilies, Soups and Stews, Tex Mex from A to Z and a section on Game that starts out like this:

I am not a hunter. I have only killed game once in my life. It was a deer. A doe, with a few white spots. The weapon I used was the front end of a Chevrolet. It was a good clean head shot that catapulted the animal into the ditch and only dented the license plate. A lucky shot.

Let me say here that, in addition to being able to cook, this lady writes so as to make the reader keep turning the pages. And there's much more here than the mere recitation of recipes. Ms. Eckhardt shares anecdotes, household tips and expert preparation techniques, with extra emphasis on the word "shares." You'll feel like you are benefiting from the advice of an old friend, who just happens to be an excellent cook with a droll sense of humor.

The author's Panhandle heritage is undoubtedly responsible for the book's ever-so-slight West Texas (as opposed to East Texas) slant. However, the Gulf Coast Region is well represented in the Fish and Shellfish section, an important facet of Texas fare that many Texas cookbooks ignore. The Tex-Mex section is especially thorough and well done, but don't look for any fajita recipes. This book was written just before fajitas began to be served in Tex-Mex restaurants and became so wildly popular.

A little clicking around in Amazon.com revealed that Ms. Eckhardt has written numerous books, including Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine (winner of the IACP Julia Child Award for the Best Cookbook of 1992) and a little number she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West Defoyd, Entertaining 101: Everything You Need to Know to Entertain with Style and Grace, which won a James Beard Prize. She also writes regularly for "Cooking Light" magazine.

The Only Texas Cookbook made me want to get in the kitchen and cook. And any skepticism I started out with left me after about the third page. Obviously, this book is not the only Texas cookbook. But it sure could be.

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