The Military Wives' Cookbook: 200 Years of Traditions, Recipes, and Remembrances

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Cumberland House Publishing

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The Military Wives' Cookbook is a collection of recipes, anecdotal stories, and vintage photographs tracing the history and unique contributions of American military wives. Beginning with an Independence Tea Party featuring the foods served by the women of Edenton, North Carolina, at a party on October 25, 1774, it recreates the scenes and foods that recount the stories of the commitments and sacrifice that military wives have given the nation for more than two hundred years. Presented in menu format, each chapter includes a story that relates to a group of recipes evocative of the period in which the story is set. Some chapters recreate recipes from a historic account, such as "A Colonial Thanksgiving" and "Christmas in the Confederate White House," both of which describe holidays celebrated under wartime conditions. Others are of the international foods they have learned to enjoy from such places as Morocco, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, and Korea. The book is divided into six large sections: Teas and Coffees; Buffets, Brunches, and Lunches; A Taste of Home: Dinner Family Style; Alfresco Dining; Over There: An International Affair; Home for the Holidays and Other Celebrations. The women, through whose eyes these stories are told and whose recipes are shared, are truly remarkable. They often balanced the responsibilities of maintaining home and hearth, raising a family, managing a business, and supporting a war effort. In addition, they found time to extend themselves in friendship and hospitality to one another and to women in the places where they were stationed, earning them a well-respected reputation that continues to this day.


Carolyn Quick Tillery
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Cumberland House Publishing
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Cumberland House Publishing
Cumberland House Publishing
The Military Wives' Cookbook: 200 Years of Traditions, Recipes, and Remembrances

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I was not a big history buff when I attended school, nor have I acquired an overwhelming passion for it in my adult life.  The reissued version of this book, however, has proven to be an exception.
To be sure, The Military Wives' Cookbook provides a huge helping of history.   Not only the history of the military wife, and her role in military history, but its influence on the nation and the outcome of the various wars. Mrs. Tillery manages to do this by wrapping history in menus and recipes of today and yesterday to provide a delightfully enjoyable read.

This book was previously published under the title of  At Freedoms Table and is just one in a list of this authors book credits on topics ranging from southern cooking to The African-American Heritage Cookbook.    Having grown up in a military family and having raised a family as the wife of a military man, the author has a true understanding of what challenges and hardships face a woman who follows a man in the military service of their country.  In the forward it is clear to see Mrs. Tillery's love of country, and family, and her great respect for those women who went before her as military wives, as well as her love of the food that has kept this great nation going through times of war.

Packed into the 21 page introduction is a treasure trove of historical tidbits pertaining to those women behind the scenes who helped in no small way to help the United States win the various battles, wars, conflicts, police actions, and military skirmishes.   This well written glimpse into a time span from revolutionary war through the world wars and into the present day highlights the role the military wife and indeed the military family has played in supporting our gallant fighting men.  Aside from the introduction there are excerpts and quotes from the diaries, memoirs, and correspondences that detail the first hand experiences of life and duty with the military.  These sections are well researched and thoughtfully placed throughout the book, and each holds a different significant place in the book corresponding to the recipes next to them either by time or geographic region.

The recipes contained in the book are in menu format according either to the function (i.e., tea time, lunch, family dinners, holiday celebrations), or the venue, as in the chapter entitled "Over There an International Affair".  The recipes vary also from some of those served in the 17- or 1800's to those from the current conflict in Iraq.  They are a delightful fast look through the formalities of afternoon tea for the revolutionary war officer's wives to the home for the holiday's meals of the more current day.  The recipes are mostly the type one might use on any given day or perhaps for a special occasion.  Most are quite simple and the ingredients are easily found.

I have to be honest and say that this cookbook is a real exception for me from the usual cookbook fare.   It is a good reading book in its own right.  There is a wealth of knowledge and information and personal glimpses into the and day to day lives of the military life, and it is presented in such a way as to not be the dry boring stuff of history class we all remember from school.  The author brings these women to life.  We feel their struggles and trials and even, sometimes, the grief and pain that is often the way for a wife of a military man.  There is a treasure-trove of facts an trivia, such as  during the siege at Valley Forge 10 women in ox carts came with supplies for the troops, or that General Custer's wife Elizabeth followed her husband to every posting,  and her journals and letters provide a great deal of information about their life both before and after the battle of Little Bighorn.

Now nothing is perfect and this cookbook is no exception.  There were plenty of photographs in the book; however none of them were related to the food.  The pictures were interesting, well researched photographs of many men, women, and children who did their part for the war efforts, but not one picture of the dish or even a picture of the proposed menu laid out on the table ready to be served.  I don't expect an author to have pictures off all their dishes, but, after all, this does have "cookbook" in the title so therefore it is about the food too, and should at least have one or two pictures of the food.  I also didn't like the way the index was set up, and perhaps that is because it is laid out in the book in menu format so when looking for a recipe I didn't always remember the "family" given or specific name for it.  If the index had been a two fold index with both the recipe names and also a menu index that would have been helpful to me.

If you're reading this and thinking, "I really don't need another cookbook," think again.  It is a good cookbook, but it is a great read.  I would buy this book for myself, as a gift, and most definitely for every military family you know.  This would be of interest to the cook and non- cook alike because of the historic information and  the patriotic relevance throughout the book.  This has been the best book I have had the pleasure to open so far this year. 

Recipe: Bulkobi (Korean Barbecue)

4 pounds sirloin
¼ Cup rice wine
1 ½ Cups soy sauce
¼ Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
5 Cloves garlic, crushed
3 Tablespoons ginger root, grated
1 large onion grated
¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
Pinch Chinese 5 spice seasoning
Pinch cayenne
¼ Cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted and divided

This recipe may be cooked on the grill, which is delicious, or pan-fried. If you are grilling the meat, you may leave the sirloin whole and cut the meat in thin slices after it is cooked.  However if you pan-fry the meat, cut it across the grain  into thin slices prior to cooking.  Wash the meat under cold running water and prepare it according to the cooking method you will use.  Place the meat with all remaining ingredients, including half of the sesame seeds, into a sealed plastic bad.  Marinate it for 24 to 48 hours.  Cook to well done, sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds, and serve with sticky rice and Korean bean sprout salad. 
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe courtesy the "Military Wives' Cookbook:  200 Years of Traditions, Recipes, and Remembrances," written by Carolyn Quick Tillery, published by Cumberland House,  2008


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