Serena Freewomyn

Book Review: Into the Pines Kitchen

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | September 06, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: Fire Island, gender, Pines

The Fire Island Pines Arts Project, a non-profit organization promoting the arts in the Fire Island gay summer community, just released its first-ever cookbook, Into the Pines Kitchen. The cookbook is filled with recipes from Pines residents, gay, straight, young, and old. The cookbook contains 200 recipes from over 100 contributors, including Pines notables Scott Bromley, Gilbert Parker, and Hal Rubinstein. As a nod to bygone days, the book features a posthumous contribution from John Whyte, one of the Pines' founders.

I'm a cookbook enthusiast (which, given my culinary background, should come as no surprise), especially when it comes to community cookbooks. Cookbooks are a terrific way at getting insight into cultural values. If we were to look at cookbooks from the 1700's and 1800's, we would see recipes for homeopathic remedies for everything from the common cold to abortifacients, right alongside recipes for jams, bread, and one-pot stews. That's because until the mid-1800's, women assumed the primary role for healing in their communities, and women passed their knowledge of herbs to one another via cookbooks and word of mouth. And although men have dominated the field of professional cooking since the early 1700's, it is women who have taken their place behind the hot stove in the home, ever since humans started to feed themselves all those eons ago.

I love reading community cookbooks from churches, local bridge groups, women's sewing circles or book groups, and yes . . . even Cub Scout den mothers. When I was younger, I loved making recipes from our church's cookbook. I could think of the different women who contributed their recipes and those dishes took on their personalities in a way. That particular cookbook was a project that raised money for a church member who couldn't afford chemotherapy. And even though I have broken ties with my church, decades later I still enjoy the fond memories of church socials whenever I open that cookbook.

FIPAP_cookbook_cover.jpgIt is within that tradition that Into the Pines Kitchen is situated. Tony LaRocco, Chairman of the FIPAP Cookbook Committee, remarked, "Given the history and importance of the Pines, it seems vital to record our traditions, including those found in our kitchens. Into the Pines Kitchen is a snapshot of our community. This cookbook offers delicious recipes unique to the Pines way of life."

The recipes in this cookbook are profoundly "American cuisine," albeit with a very Northeastern flavor. There are recipes for meatloaf, hunters' stew, casseroles, brisket, and skirt stake. Some of the recipes that I've had the opportunity to sample during the book review process are Baked Spaghetti, Quick Moussaka, Green Bean Casserole (which I loved!), and Quickie Biscuits. All of the dishes are the types of comfort foods one would expect to find in a community cookbook. And while I've never been to Fire Island, I do get an idea of what the community must be like by taking a look at the pages of Into the Pines Kitchen. I have visions of backyard barbecues and end of summer socials shared with neighbors and friends.

My one criticism of the cookbook is that the index is not organized by ingredient, as most cookbooks are. Instead, there is an alphabetical list of recipes by course, as well as an alphabetical list by contributor. That's great if you already know which recipe you're looking for. But as a user-friendly feature, it's a little bit of a pitfall. However, if you want to support the Fire Islands Pines Art Project, whether you've been to the Pines or not, this is definitely a fun and nostalgic cookbook to add to your collection.

Click over to FIPAP to find out more about the book.

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I love community cook books. I rarely cook, but I've often found myself flipping open the pages of a skinny little church cookbook from before I was a teen. I make one of the recipes and feel the memories of church socials and old ladies come flooding back over me.

Hi Bil, I'm glad I'm not the only one who takes a trip down memory lane with my cookbooks.

As my grandmother ages and falls victim to Alzheimer's disease, I've started collecting her recipes for all the traditional Dutch foods that she made for us growing up, because it is the one connection I have to my family's heritage. I don't speak Dutch and I only know bits of our Dutch history. So the foods we eat on special holidays are my one link to our past.

I think food is a very powerful means of evoking memories. Remember the scene in "Ratatouille" when the food critic sits down in the restaurant and is suddenly taken back to memories of his childhood when he takes his first whiff of the ratatouille on his plate? That's why I love to concept of the community cookbook!