Book Review: The Family Chicken & Fowl Cookbook

The Family Chicken & Fowl Cookbook, by Mel Marshall

This is a fantastic cookbook, even if not all of the dishes are ones that I would be interested in cooking or eating, largely because the approach that the book takes is such a pleasing one to me personally. This book has several aspects of it that make it especially appealing. For one, the ingredients of these dishes are for the most part rather straightforward, and a great many of them feature a similar set of ingredients that are changed in how they are prepared, thus allowing for a great many dishes to be made from a consistent set of ingredients. One of the other aspects of this book that is particularly appealing is the way that there is an entire chapter that is devoted to making the sorts of sauces that help make poultry more tasty. This is particularly good because such sauces are both versatile to make as well as somewhat tricky to find in many contemporary cookbooks. This book is a good reminder of why historical cookbooks are so enjoyable to read and review as well as to keep around. If this is not a perfect cookbook it is still a very good one, small in size, not containing much in the way of photographs, but excellent in its content.

Indeed, this book is impressive in its content. Not only focusing on chicken, this book has a lot to say about dishes from other fowls, including turkey, geese, ducks, quail, cornish hens, and capons. Indeed, this book comes at an important transition when it comes to cooking that is important to recognize, in that this book was published in the 1970’s. The authors are trying to convey an older style of cooking to a generation, and are somewhat optimistic about the decline of pre-made meals that was highly premature as a matter of prophecy. Some of the dishes and styles included here have largely disappeared from contemporary palattes–and some of these are well worth recovering, it must be admitted as a fan of poultry eating. Also of interest is the way that the author talks about the proliferation of preparation techniques for meat that are extremely problematic, including the use of chemical castration of roosters to create highly hazardous food that was so dangerous that even at the time that this book was written they had been banned in many areas, although admittedly eating capons is not something that is a usual contemporary habit. This book also comes at a transition point where future cookbooks of its kind would either aim lower for more basic foods that repeated the same dishes over and over again with less creativity in presentation or sought to preserve creativity by seeking more fussy demands for ingredients that don’t always taste as good as more easily available ingredients.

This book is between 200 and 250 pages long, and it begins with a discussion of the many birds that one can eat, which is definitely a subject near and dear to my stomach (1). The next three chapters deal with three different ways to cook chicken, with recipes that show chicken being cooked in the skillet (2), in the oven (3), or in the stew pot (4), all of which are very tasty ways to eat chicken. This is followed by recipes that include turkey (4). This is then followed by recipes that involve capons or cornish hens (5), both of which are a bit more difficult to find. After this there are recipes for geese, ducks, and ducklings (7), as well as various game birds (8), some of which can apparently be found in farm-grown forms without the hunting. This is then followed by an inventive use of poultry dishes in creative leftovers (9), as well as sauces and other indispensibles to make poultry dishes better (10), as well as a closing index. Overall, this is a superb cookbook that deserves to be better known.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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