Monday, July 21, 2008

Best of the Best from Alaska: An Earnest Summation

I made 25 recipes from The Best of the Best from Alaska, compiled and edited by the grandmotherly Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley (see left). The breakdown:

Worth the Price of the book -- 2
Great -- 3
Good -- 9
So-So -- 8
Flat-out bad -- 3

A respectable spread. There were some wonderful dishes here -- the blackberry cobbler, the halibut fettuccine, the 1-2-3 biscuits. There were also some abominations. (Creamy fried halibut. My stomach lurches just typing those words.) 

The book as a whole is neither artfully nor carefully crafted; I have my doubts that the editors tested all the recipes, as several of them simply didn't work. Pains were not taken to ensure that instructions were clear and detailed.

What makes this volume extraordinary? It expresses the range and creativity of middle American cooking, genus Alaskan, without asserting a political or aesthetic agenda of its own. A welcome relief when you live in the land of Alice Waters. Best of the Best includes recipes for both flamboyantly artificial Jell-O salads and made-from-scratch chowders. I LOVE that. Here, we have a casually (or perhaps mindlessly???) unpretentious synthesis of high and low, a sadly rare phenomenon in American cookbooks, and culture.  

Pompous summation concluded.

If anyone has a suggestion for the cookbook I should try next, please let me know. 


  1. Tipsy one, I admire your spunk in even attempting to serve some of those dishes to your loved ones. How aboutmoving from your mid-America via Alaska adventure to one very unlike it -- say African or Persian or Malaysian?

  2. Thank-you so much, Goose. I was thinking of doing Claudia Roden's Arabesque, which covers the cuisine of several Middle Eastern lands. I was also considering a Greek cookbook, which the Chowhound cookbook club has chosen as August Cookbook of the Month. Both would use summer tomatoes.

  3. what amazes me is that there are so many flat-out bad recipes in any of these books. it really seems crazy that they don't test them better, and it's not just a matter of taste. maddening!

    and i'm with goose, something exotic! african is my vote! though i'm also interested in the slightly less exotic mexican. also, one of these days, spanish.

  4. I should be able to supply some fresh tomatoes in a couple of weeks.