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Literary Cookbooks I

November 02, 1995|CHARLES PERRY

The slipcover of "The Recipes of Madison County," by Jane M. Hemminger and Courtney A. Work (Oxmoor House; $14.95), is a sketch of a covered bridge, rather resembling the cover of the novel "The Bridges of Madison County." In case you don't get the point, there's a sticker explaining that the book contains recipes from the movie version that starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Hemminger, who catered the food shown in the film, gives her recipes for those characteristic 1965 Iowa meals, alternating with "modern Mideastern" meals of her own devising.

Long story short: a book for people who fell in love with the movie. The menus include mood-setting suggestions for cozy, intimate meals with family, friends or possibly romantic, craggy-faced photographers from out of town.

Literary Cookbooks II

"The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook" (HarperCollins; $24.95) is not one of those she-probably-cooked-something-like-this books about beloved literary figures. The 75 recipes were actually recorded (thriftily, in an old invoice book her husband had used 30 years earlier) by the author of the "Little House" novels. The collection recently turned up in the attic of the Wilder farm in Mansfield, Mo.

An introduction says the recipes, compiled in the '30s and '40s but largely reflecting older tastes, have been "updated for modern kitchens." Often that's a suspicious phrase, but here the updating really seems to have been very gentle, partly a matter of converting the recipes from wood-burning to gas or electric ranges.

Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was a sophisticated reporter and world traveler, and there are a few surprising cosmopolitan touches. Mostly, though, these are sweet, unpretentious, old-fashioned farmhouse dishes: glazed beets, ham loaf, pork pie with sweet potato biscuits, henny penny muffins (flecked with bits of chicken, celery and onion), apple ( not pineapple) upside-down cake, peach tapioca--and, of course, the recipe that was often published during Wilder's lifetime, her gingerbread.

Who Says Philosophy Isn't Useful?

This month is the 600th anniversary of the famous Boar's Head Dinner at Queen's College, Oxford. It was around this time of year in 1395 that a student wandering in Shotover Forest was attacked by a wild boar. He managed to strangle the beast with the volume of Aristotle he had been reading, and it was brought back to the college with the book still in its mouth.

In commemoration, Queen's College has held a Boar's Head dinner in November ever since. By tradition, the boar is always served with something inserted into its mouth, like a lemon or an apple (but not a book).

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