ALLen Reads 2016

allen-reads-2016-texas-eatsTexas Eats
by Robb Walsh

Recommended for grade 4 through adult

Our main book this year is Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook by Robb Walsh. Texas Eats is the definitive, illustrated guide to the cuisines of Texas and their attendant histories and cultures. It is a colorful and deeply personal blend of history, anecdotes and recipes from all over the Lone Star State. Based on a WPA project idea from the 1930’s, it’s a unique way to learn about the origins of our state’s colorful and delicious past and present.

Texas Eats covers the standards, from chicken-fried steak to cheese enchiladas to barbecued brisket. The author makes stops in East Texas for some good old-fashioned soul food, the Hill Country for German and Czech-influenced favorites, the Panhandle for traditional cowboy cooking and the Gulf Coast for timeless seafood dishes and lost classics like pickled shrimp.

Recipes also include beloved-but-obscure gems: barbecued crabs, chili con carne, grilled oysters on the half shell, crispy jalapeño peppers, Hill County goulash, King Ranch casserole, pulled pork, mayhew jelly, Indian Pudding, and sweet potato cobbler, all highlighted by first-person stories and geographical details.

Discussion Questions

  1. Prior to reading Texas Eats, what foods did you most identify as “Texan”? Did that change after reading?
  2. Were you already aware of the diversity of Texas’ cultures and foods? Did you learn anything about Texas’ cooking and history that surprised you?
  3. Where are you originally from? What ethnic cultures and foods were part of life there?
  4. Did you find a favorite recipe in the book? What is it? Did you make it?
  5. Do you have a Texas recipe you feel would have fit into this book? What is it?
  6. If you were to add another chapter to Texas Eats,  what would it be?
  7. Do you collect cookbooks? If so, is Texas Eats an interesting addition to your collection? Why? If not, does this book make you think that’s something you might like to do?
  8. Would you be interested in starting/hosting a Cookbook Book Club? Maybe an online club would be more convenient. Take a look at The Kitchen Reader. It is an online food-related book club that anyone can join!

Robb Walsh

Veteran food writer and three-time James Beard Award winner Robb Walsh is the author of more than a dozen cookbooks including the iconic Tex-Mex Cookbook and Legends of Texas Barbecue.

His latest books, published in fall 2015, are The Chili Three-Bean to Four-Alarm  and Con Carne to Vegetarian . A former restaurant reviewer for the Austin Chronicle, Houston Press and Houstonia Magazine, Walsh now co-owns El Real Tex-Mex Café in Houston. He is cofounder and board member of Foodways Texas, a non-profit organization dedicated to the study of Texas food heritage.

Walsh has worked as a commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday, the editor-in-chief of Chile Pepper Magazine and the food columnist for Natural History. He is also the founder and head judge of the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival.

Nobody knows Texas foods like Walsh. Texas Eats covers all of the Lone Star State’s wide-ranging cuisines, including the Cajun influences of the bayou, the German and Czech immigrants who brought to Texas traditions of beer brewing and sausage making, the distinctive flavors from Texas’ Mexican neighbors and even the latest trends such as Viet-Cajun fusion and Pakistani fajitas.

cook-a-doodle-doCook-A-Doodle-Doo!
by Susan Stevens Crummel

Recommended for our younger readers

Tired of eating the same old “chicken feed,” Big Brown Rooster is ready to test his wings and try to cook for himself. When he happens upon a cookbook from his great-grandmother, Little Red Hen, Rooster decides to make a favorite: strawberry shortcake. His animal friends laugh, but in the end, Turtle, Iguana and Pig volunteer to help. Comically, Turtle reads the recipe, and when he says that they need flour, Iguana rushes outside to pick a petunia. When Iguana is asked to beat an egg, he raises a baseball bat. Against all odds, the end result looks delicious, but clumsy Iguana drops the strawberry shortcake on the floor and Pig quickly gobbles it up. Luckily, Rooster is determined to “make” this happen. When the four friends create another beautiful cake, even the animals that chose not to participate are invited to enjoy the feast. This year’s ALLen Read’s picture book illustrates friendship, determination, and generosity, as well as humor. It’s really delicious.

Susan Stevens Crummel

Susan Stevens Crummel, in collaboration with her sister, Janet Stevens (Caldecott Honor Medalist for Tops and Bottoms), has written several children’s books including New York Times Best Seller Help Me, Mr. Mutt! (winner of the Texas Bluebonnet Award and named one of Time Magazine’s Best Children’s Books), The Little Red Pen (Arkansas Diamond Honor Award), Cook-A-Doodle-Doo! (Texas Bluebonnet Award, And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon (ALA Notable Book, Colorado Book Award, California Young Reader Medal), Jackalope (Storytelling World Award, IRA Children’s Choice Award), New York Times Best Seller, The Great Fuzz Fenzy (NCTE Notable Book and winner of ten state book awards.) She has also written picture books illustrated by cut-paper artist, Dorothy Donohue, including City Dog/Country Dog, featured at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Susan travels over 50,000 miles a year speaking at schools, conventions, and workshops throughout the United States. She shares her love of writing with over 100,000 students from coast to coast. In 2005 and 2006 she was invited by Laura Bush to read at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

Susan is married to Richard Crummel, former Superintendent of Schools in Burleson, Texas. She has three grown children — Christie, Jason, and Courtney; three grandchildren; and one feisty cat — Tweeter, supreme ruler of the universe.