Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wonderful cookbook!

I had never noticed the common ground covered by cooking and citizenship until I leafed through This is What Democracy Cooks Like, the new cookbook from WORT, a listener-sponsored community radio station at 89.9 FM in Madison. Yes, I'm blogging about it partly because I submitted a guerrilla cookie recipe from this blog, to which the editors gave two full pages and a fitting quote from Michael Ruhlman. But even if they hadn’t accepted my submission, I’d consider this a fabulous cookbook.

Recall your most rewarding cooking experience and I’ll bet it involved community. From raw materials brought to you by a multitude of farmers, butchers, truck drivers, and grocers, you created an end product that included friends and family sitting around a dinner table sharing flavors and aromas, being nourished by the same sustenance. Or consider that feeling of accomplishment when you share a good recipe. Makes the world a better place, it does.

Citizenship feels the same way. We build on foundations prepared by others, using whatever knowledge and skills we can bring to the task. The end product is a community that sustains ourselves and others.

In January 2011, the folks at WORT decided to create a fundraising cookbook. The cookbook committee had met only once when Governor Scott Walker began his assault on democracy. The cookbook editor wrote that "the project then went on the back burner as we played our parts in the struggle--marching, chanting, reporting, occupying, singing, tweeting, blogging, documenting, and disseminating information. When we finally got back on track...the title had changed to reflect the events of this year and the tenor of the cookbook had changed as well.

This Is What Democracy Cooks Like rises to the level of art in the success with which it captures the communitarian spirit in both cooking and in citizenship. You can cook with this book; read it for amusement; enjoy its graphics; and keep it as a souvenir of the historical moment when democracy started to come back to life in Wisconsin and, I hope, the United States.

The recipes, of course, reflect the community. Ethnic variety, a bit heavy on German and Scandinavian heritages (Schwarzbrot fur das Brot Maschine, page 35.) More than the typical proportion of vegetarian recipes (Clean-out-the-Refrigerator Vegetable Bake, page 205), but still enough sausage, beef, and bacon (Uncle Porky’s Chops, page 190.) Lots of whole grains and veggies, and nothing that needs a fancy pan you don’t have in your kitchen.

Contributors were asked to write a paragraph or two about each recipe. Here are a few:
My sister’s ex-boyfriend cooked this for my family when he visited from his home nation of Austria. Because I did not see them lasting, I asked him for the recipe right away. Turns out I was right and our family now has a delicious staple pasta dish. (Red, White, and Blue Pasta, page 161)
I have a mixing bowl and a muffin pan from my great grandma, who was a fabulous baker. Whenever I move into a new house, I christen the kitchen by making her recipe with her mixing bowl and pan. (Banana Muffins, page 41)
I developed this recipe using canned pumpkin, applesauce, onions, and Canadian bacon from the food pantry. I had to buy only a few things to make this wonderful soup. (Food Pantry Pumpkin Soup with Ham, page 108)
This lasagna won a small lasagna cook-off in 2008 on the near east side of Madison. It is, therefore, famous. (Spinach Lasagna, page 154)
I made up this pie out at the Creamery CafĂ© in Paoli. We had a bottle of brandy needing to be used. It’s become popular among our regulars. (Chocolate Brandy Pie, page 289)
In addition to the recipes and interesting culinary sidebars, the cookbook includes some straight history of the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising. “A Seat at the Table” tells the story of the uprising in four pages, and throughout the book are several dozen well-captioned photos of the best protest signs, the crowds inside and outside the Capitol, and other scenes, including the infamous Faux News palm trees.

It was put together with obvious care—the graphic design is outstanding and the marginal notes well-researched and amusing. The spiral binding keeps it laying perfectly flat and staying open to the right page; the sturdy paper will hold up to splashes and an occasional wet finger.

Have I made the sale? Order it; you’ll love it.


  1. Thanks for this post. I stumbled across it while searching for a recipe for Chani Cups. Your quest lead me to a cookbook on my shelf, "Uprisings: The Whole Grain Baker's Book" which was published in 1983 by Mother Earth News. It contains select recipes from many food cooperatives around the country (and one from the Netherlands). Nature's Bakery was a contributor but, alas, no recipe for Guerrilla Cookies. However, there is one for Peanut Minus cookies. I am thinking that there might be some overlap in the blend of flours, and it does use millet. If you do not have access to the book, I would gladly send you the recipe if you would like to contact me. ( Be sure to put something in the subject line so I do not send it to the spam folder. Congratulations on your win and published recipe!

  2. I have enjoyed every word of the cookie saga. Thanks millions for this.
    George Hesselberg

  3. George! This comment, coming from you...!

    I can't think of many whose opinion on this blog I would respect more than yours. Thank you; I'm glad you enjoyed it!