The Oregonian Cookbook: Best Recipes From Foodday, edited by Katherine Miller
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Carpe Diem Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Although I rarely read cookbooks , it is not from a lack of interest in food, but rather from the fact that as someone who tends to eat mainly for myself, and to prefer to focus spending my time on other tasks than preparing food for myself in time-consuming and complicated ways, I have not found many cookbooks to be particularly practical on a personal level. Even so, from time to time I enjoy reading cookbooks because they fire the imagination of my own creativity when it comes to making foods, which is an area of creativity that is worthwhile to fire up, and has at least the potential of being useful in the future, and also a way in which my own interest can be of benefit to others as well who have more people to cook for and thus a more practical need for good dishes. As can be expected from this book’s provenance as a best-of collection of recipes from the Oregonian under the aegis of Carpe Diem’s production design , this is a book that is constructed with care, and with at least one beautiful photograph courtesy of the Oregonian newspaper for each of the book’s chapters. Despite my own fairly restrictive diet and food allergies, this book managed to offer even a picky eater like myself dozens of dishes worth trying out, and more than a few worthy of making for myself and for others. That alone justifies the time spent in reading this lengthy volume, which extends almost 400 pages.
The contents of this book justify the length provided. Besides 361 recipes divided into various categories like: appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables and legumes, pasta and noodles, fish and shellfish, poultry, meat (beef, lamb, and pork), vegetarian and vegan fare, quick and easy dishes that do not take long to make, breakfast and brunch, sauces, dressings, and condiments, preserves and pickles, breads, cakes, pies, and other desserts, cookies, bars, and candy, there are chapters that focus on notable Oregon-based chefs and a selection of notable dishes from James Beard, one of the originators of postwar American cooking. The dishes are culled from thirty years of recipes included in Foodday, the cuisine section of Portland’s notable newspaper The Oregonian. Even so, the origins of these recipes are as diverse as Tampa’s famous Columbian restaurant in Ybor City, the Ladies’ Home Journal, and long defunct restaurants whose retired chefs shared their notable recipes to Portland’s foodies. Let us make no mistake about it, the contents of this book are devoted to foodies, with resources provided as to where specific ethnic ingredients can be found, to detailed lists of specific ingredients, down to the brand name, of what works best, as well as entertaining introductory texts to many of the recipes that discuss where or whom the recipe came from, along with a variety of possibilities of dishes that would work well with the recipe as part of a larger meal.
To be sure, not all the recipes will be to everyone’s tastes. There were large sections of the book that were of limited interest as a result of being seriously allergic to mangoes, pork, and shellfish, and from having milder allergies to milk and tomatoes and peppers and religious restrictions on eating some of the other meats discussed here. Other dishes like prime rib and rack of lamb sound tasty but must be eaten sparingly on account of gout, which such dishes are likely to inflame. Even so, despite these restrictions on diet, there is something for everyone’s palates. If one likes hearty American fare, there is much of that to find here, including quite a few dishes that make tasty treats out of Thanksgiving leftovers. If one likes ethnic foods, there is plenty of that too. For those who enjoy large amounts of butter in a fine roux or for haute cuisine that requires those less knowledgeable about terminology to research what the recipemakers are talking about, there is plenty of that to be found as well. For those who prefer vegetarian or vegan dishes and enjoy finding a use for the native marionberries and chantrelle mushrooms, there is plenty of that to be found also. Taken from three decades of recipes and taken from such a wide variety of types of foods, this is a sprawling book that deserves its length and merits reading and appreciation. The editor is quick to give credit to chefs and to show appreciation to the many people who have contributed to the rise of Portland as a place of known regional excellence in cuisine, and this is a book that manages not only to serve as a love letter to Portland’s cooking, but also to provide dishes that are straightforward to make, sometimes require as few as five ingredients, and that are likely to be very tasty. This is a book worth copying and raiding for one’s own recipe books, and in sharing with friends whose tastes in food may be somewhat different, thus making the book even more of use in its diverse opportunities for culinary inspiration.
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