Back-of-the-book blurb: This book chronicles the first year of the White House vegetable garden with its many dozens of vegetables and herbs, including descendants of seeds planted by Thomas Jefferson; its berries and the honey from the hives of First Family bees. Mrs. Obama enlisted both staff and nearby school kids who learned much about there being a time to prepare the soil before you plant, times to harvest, and to cook and eat. You (and your kids) can join a co-op garden or plant a few of your favorite things in window boxes. Or, you can shop for the seasonally-fresh and eat well.. Just follow the truly tempting recipes the author has adapted for family dinners. She offers two or three for each White House crop, with extras thrown in for Presidential desserts.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: Although A White House Garden Cookbook is billed as a cookbook, our family found it to be so much more! The physical format and content made it very inviting for my middle-grade readers (ages 8 and 12) to spend time reading it almost like a novel. It’s a mid-size paper back with French flaps, color photos (of produce, prepared dishes, or garden workers) on each page, and loads of colorful sidebars with fun facts about vegetables and community gardens.
We all enjoyed the recipes and tips about using the vegetables from our CSA and backyard garden; there is also information about planning and planting a garden, harvesting, and preparing the beds for the next season as they winter over.
Interspersed between the segments of practical advice are vignettes about the creation of the White House Kitchen Garden, from Michelle Obama’s inspiration; to its planning, planting, and harvesting with help from local schools and community groups. My kids flipped through the book and read these sections as they would read a story, eager to learn what was happening in the White House garden through the seasons, and to connect it with what we could expect from our own 4 x 8 raised bed and herb pots.
There are “four score and seven” recipes in the book (coincidence? I think not!), arranged according to season. They are a mix of vintage and contemporary recipes from the White House kitchen, as well as tried-and-true recipes from community gardens across the U.S. Suggestions for special event menus (pizza party, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving) include several seasonal dishes to fit the theme.
We are a bit overwhelmed with the bounty from our weekly CSA, and I’ve turned to the book several times. A variation to the recipe for Onion Packets (p. 45; contributed by an after-school program in South Dakota) suggests trimming beets and wrapping them in foil, then grilling until tender, about 45 minutes. I followed the instructions, rubbed the cooled beets under water to remove the outer skins, and have been enjoying them all week. I’ve served them sliced over field greens, with a little crumbled bleu cheese and some herbed Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (p. 30) – yum!
A White House Garden Cookbook is a story in itself, with kid-friendly seasonal recipes. The food-splattered index of my book is evidence that we’ve thoroughly taste-tested the early summer crops; we’re looking forward to dog-earring recipes the include corn and tomatoes, next up at the CSA And don’t tell the kids, but their involvement in planning, planting, harvesting, and cooking will increase their interest in actually eating the fresh produce that comes from your garden (or farmer’s market or local stand).
What’s your favorite treasure from the vegetable/herb garden?
See what else is happening in the kitchens of the blogosphere this weekend. Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking to find links to other food-related posts. There may be book reviews, recipes, kitchen gadget tips and tricks …