At Home on the Range presented by Elizabeth Gilbert

June 25th, 2012

McSweeney's reprint of Elizabeth Gilbert's great-grandmother's cookbook At Home on the Range.

I went to San Francisco in late April to meet with McSweeney’s, visit friends and a city that I’ve missed and haven’t been to in five years. I was really excited to meet with the fine folks at McSweeney’s because as I’ve mentioned here before — working with them on the Toro Bravo Cookbook is a dream come true. The only plans I had with them were to stop by the office after I arrived and a couple days later have dinner with some of them. When all was said and done I ate ice cream that David Byrne, yes that David Byrne, had delivered to the McSweeney’s office while they finished up his book How Music Works which comes out later this summer and gone out for drinks and then dinner with the majority of the fine folks of McSweeney’s and a very special someone.

If it had been just me visiting McSweeney’s I bet two at the most three people from the publishing house I would’ve come out to dinner but the morning of I texted my editor and she said something to the tune of when we’d meet, where (Mission Chinese Food) and oh, Elizabeth Gilbert is coming to dinner too. What the fuck?!

I could go on and on about how generous, warm, and smart Elizabeth is because she is (She reached out for my arm as we walked into Mission Street Chinese and asked me to sit next to her at dinner so we could talk. Above and beyond. I couldn’t have been happier about that and the rest of the night.) but instead I’ll turn to the book that brought her to San Fransisco and therefore dinner that night.

It’s the book above — a reprint of her great grandma Margaret Yardley Potter’s cookbook At Home on the Range which originally published in 1947. It turns out that Dave Eggers had been talking about doing some sort of a charitable book collaboration with Elizabeth when she came across her great grandmother’s cookbook. Would Mr. Eggers like to reprint it and give all the proceeds to ScholarMatch and 826 Valencia? Why yes he would.

Fast forward to me getting my first package of books from the McSweeney’s Book Release Club which I just became a member of…

My first box of books arrived for the McSweeney's $100 for 10 books Book Release Club...

With three incredible books including…

Two down, one to go!

I started reading At Home on the Range on a Saturday and I finished it on a Saturday. The same Saturday. It is that good. If you like what I write about here — DIY cooking projects, gardening, food adventures and all sorts of other eat, drink and be merry things I think you’re really going to enjoy this book.

I’ve only cooked two things from it so far — a classic meatloaf and the chicken cacciatore — and both were delicious. The recipes are all written as this one below — in paragraphs and often with more insight and voice than ingredients. Page after page of honest and full-of-life stories.

Some selections from At Home on the Range:

“So go our culinary ways with confidence and without apology. Use only one standard in trying out strange foods or seasonings: that you like the result.”

“‘Which is more necessary in the house, the bed or the stove?’ has almost as much chance of being satisfactorily answered. Granted that the three most important happenings in life, birth, marriage and death, take place in bed; three equally vital occurrences, breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily owe their success to the stove.”

Followed by this advice for a new couple to purchase the best bed and stove they can afford:

“Don’t rush either purchase, for these important articles, like a husband, should last a lifetime if well selected.”

At Home on the Range meatloaf recipe.

All together now.

Filled with three unsliced hardboiled eggs and topped with bacon.

And a can of tomato soup...

Slice and serve!

Chicken cacciatore over spaghetti with arugula hazelnut pesto.

At Home on the Range
Presented by Elizabeth Gilbert
Written by Margaret Yardley Potter
pub. date April, 2012
originally published in 1947
240 pages
$24, McSweeney’s Books