Cleora's Kitchens: The Memoir of a Cook and Eight Decades of Great American Food

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Council Oak Books, 2003 - Cooking - 224 pages
When Barbara Haber, curator of Radcliffe College's 4000-volume cookbook library, was asked by The Boston Globe to name her favorite book in that famous collection, she picked Cleora's Kitchens by Cleora Butler. Why? "Because, " Ms. Haber said, "it expresses, through food, joy . . . you have the connection of food being celebratory in truly meaningful ways. Just wonderful stuff."
Starting with a freedman's wagon ride out of Texas, Cleora Butler takes us from the beaten biscuits of her childhood, baked in a wood-burning stove, to fricasseed quail she later prepared as a caterer. Rich with stories and turn-of-the-century recipes impossible to find -- possum grape wine, mother's hickory nut cake, hot water cornbread, and burnt sugar ice cream -- Cleora's Kitchens also provides a glimpse of changing twentieth-century tastes. More than 400 recipes are arranged by the decades in which she first cooked and served them, from grandpa's sausage in the early days to the first avocado anyone in Oklahoma had ever seen, to duckling pati and pine nut pilaf. Through stories, menus, and recipes, Cleora recreates the flavor of her own remarkable history -- and ours.

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About the author (2003)

Born in Texas in 1901, Cleora Butler traveled north by wagon with her family to Oklahoma -- which her family believed would be a black and Indian state. The child of cooks, Cleora learned early how to make frontier delicacies such as fried sweet corn and baked apple dumplings. She developed her knowledge and skills during the twenties, thirties, and forties cooking for the newly rich oil barons in the 'Oil Capital of the World,' then became an independent entrepreneur with her own bakery and catering business. Cleora once said of her long career, "It is difficult to express my gratitude for having spent a lifetime continuing a family tradition that goes back one hundred years . . .to me the art of cooking means in the end that you are here to see that everyone has something nice to eat.

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