Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook: Big Recipes from the Smallest State

Linda Beaulieu, an award-winning food and travel writer does a hell of a good job with "The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook: Big Recipes from the Smallest State" (Globe Pequot). In the cookbook she tackles the multi-cultural masterpiece that is Rhode Island cuisine and she often does it wonderfully with great background stories and historical references. Any Southern New England resident or long-term visitor to the area will be very satisfied with the selection of recipes she has assembled here.

Within the generous 272 pages of The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook you will find a host of regional delectables including: jonnycakes, quahog chowder, Italian wedding soup, grinders, Olneyville wiener sauce, caldo verde, creton, dynamites, strip pizza and many, many others. A homesick Rhode Islander could keep themselves busy all Autumn and Winter cooking and devouring the recipes in this book.

That's not to say The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook is perfect. There are no color photos and most of the recipes have no accompanying photographs at all. Also, folks in the communities of East Providence and other parts of East Bay will surely note the absence of many popular Portuguese dishes. You'll find no chourico and peppers or "Portuguese soup"* recipes in The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook. Also, one glaring error called for the addition of "chorizo" to give a quiche a "Portuguese flavor". Sorry, Mrs. Beaulieu but chorizo is Spanish and chourico is Portuguese and they are quite different. Local people will come to fisticuffs regarding that kind of inaccuracy!

None of those are deal breakers though. When considering the abundant information and recipes she does supply, Linda Beaulieu's The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook should be issued to all life-long Rhode Islanders leaving the state and all restaurant professionals and food service students entering it. If you're into the local flavor of not only Rhode Island but the Southcoast of Massachusetts as well, this book will not disappoint you.

*The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook includes a recipe for "caldo verde" which is a Portuguese soup, but should never be confused with the far more popular, rustic blend of chourico, meat and potatoes known ubiquitously as "Portuguese Soup".

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