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Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family    by Art Smith order for
Back to the Table
by Art Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2001 (2001)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

'The table has always served as a symbol of congregation, the place where we celebrate our loved ones through the generations-old tradition of sharing a meal ... We should all think about returning to the sanctity of the table ...'

I must admit, I never thought much about the fact that I sat at a table to share a meal. But Back to the Table has made me stop and think. What better place to communicate with your family and friends than at the table, gathering them around you like the jewels in a necklace? Art Smith grew up with homemade condiments on his family's table and he shares recipes for Garden Refrigerator Pickles, Farm Apple Butter, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Hot and Sweet Mustard, to name just a few. Take a long look at wonderful photographs like one of Spiced Maple Pecans, which look satisfactorily sticky and ready to pop in your mouth.

Smith offers recipes for Tropical Fruit Sun Tea, Vanilla Citrus Punch and Mango Kiwi Smoothies. I love smoothies and this one sounds really nice. The author talks of 'The custom of holding hands and giving thanks before a meal ... because a meal is an occasion to connect with our loved ones' and suggests various prayers to share with them. Like me, Art Smith has a love affair with home-baked breads, reflected in recipes for Fluffy Yeast Biscuits, Cheddar Batter Bread and Foccacia with Roasted Tomatoes and Onions along with others for that marvelous staff of life.

The author's reminiscences of his family's meals woke many memories of my own - recalling happy times around the family table with my parents and three older brothers. There are only two of us left now, but the memories are forever. Smith's breakfast recipes are great. I'd love to try Sweet Potato Pecan Waffles. Don't they sound wonderful? Or maybe one for combining lemon and raspberries in Lemon Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce - glorious! Back to the Table continues with suggestions for lunch and dinner, too many to list and much too hard to pick out a favorite - although Baked Crab Cakes with Spicy Remoulade Sauce and Spicy and Crisp Catfish Fillets called out to me. And both Salmon Cakes and Chicken Burgers would gladden my heart.

I always thought I had the best piecrust recipe (uses a small amount of boiling water). Chef daughter contends hers is better. I have to admit hers handles better, but mine is flakier. But I would like to try the author's version using cream cheese. And - oh, my - my greatest weakness is Bread Pudding. Smith's uses raisin bread and Orange Butterscotch Sauce. Wow! The author calls himself a family cook. 'Food as Love. Few of us think of food only in times of celebration. We also think of it in times of sadness and need. Cooking for others is a way to extend your heart.' Like most serious cooks, Smith extols the virtues of homegrown vegetables and herbs.

This really nice book is peppered with excellent photographs and its author's love of food and family is evident in every page - a lovely book to own and to give as a gift.

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