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For the Kitchen Bookshelf : Cookbooks. Big books, little books, showy cocktail table books . . . all arrive in time for holiday shopping each year. The Times' Food staff took a look at some of this year's offerings, many of which will make excellent gift choices for last-minute shoppers. Here's a rundown on some we found interesting.

December 21, 1986|Joan Drake

Real American Food by Jane and Michael Stern (Knopf: $19.95, 325 pp., illustrated).

Jane and Michael Stern's newest book shares recipes the couple has collected while traveling the country's highways and byways. Learn how to whip up a Rochester garbage plate (baked beans, home-fried potatoes, red hot dogs and a signature sauce arranged in a specific pattern), find out what's the best stance to use when eating a South Philly cheese steak sandwich and try what the authors believe are the most authentic recipes for alive-and-well classics like blueberry muffins.

The book divides our country into four sections, then looks at each by style of restaurant. This results in chapter headings such as street food or sugarhouse and country store in the East; boarding-house meals or grocery-store dining from the South; chicken-dinner halls or "rude" food coming out of the Midwest, and not-so-new California cuisine or shepherds' hotels typifying the West.

You may not agree with everything the Sterns have to say, and might feel our area of the country was a bit shortchanged, but will probably find this a fun, down-to-earth book written by two people who obviously enjoyed themselves while doing a lot of hard work. It's full of humor and light reading as well as recipes.

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