Monday, August 02, 2010

Cookbooks: The Complete Root Cellar Book by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie

If you’re serious about your local organic food and your 100 mile diet, in many parts of North America, the only way to truly go whole hog is with a root cellar. And according to authors Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie, the root cellar isn’t just for grandma anymore. In The Complete Root Cellar Book (Robert Rose) they take a complete look not only at root cellaring, but how to plan and build one, how to make it work, how to select the fruits and vegetables you will store there and -- finally -- how to cook the delicious cold stored vegetables you eventually remove.
While root cellars are not convenient in the typical, microwavable sense, they do allow us to connect personally with food in ways nothing else can match. Modern food purveyors are starting to recognize our longing for deeper food experiences, enticing us with new apple varieties, vegetables from Asia and fascinating organic foods with a story behind them. But the system’s only able to go so far, and many of us are left wanting more.
And more, in this instance, is -- in many ways -- less. Maxwell and Mackenzie’s root cellars are not the simple hole in the ground you might be imagining. Rather, they are intricate and carefully conceived food storage systems: 21st century root cellars, if you will.
A good cellar is the gateway to experiences and a food philosophy that’s more important to some of us than 24/7 wall-to-wall convenience.
Even so, if the complicated plans included don't appeal, the authors offer some simpler options and there's even a section called Root Cellars for Condos, Townhouses and Warm Climates. And then, after discussing myriad storage options and possibilities, some food: and much of it is too good to be buried in a book that, by its nature, will always have a somewhat limited appeal. Clearly, Warm Fennel and Shiitake Mushroom Salad, Spice-Roasted Turnip and Beet Batons and Brussel Sprouts in Browned Butter with Pine Nuts all deserve the widest possible following.

In all ways, The Complete Root Cellar Book is a very good volume. One that covers every aspect of its topic in a thorough and complete way. ◊

Linda L. Richards is an author and journalist and editor of January Magazine.

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