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(St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Winterset, Iowa: $21.95, 512 pp.)

This book has nothing to do with the novel, "The Bridges of Madison County" nor with the film. It has everything to do with wonderful small-town Iowa cooking.

The recipes, 500 of them, were gathered by the parishioners of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which just happens to be in Madison County, in the town of Winterset.

It's a delightful collection, rich in warmth and tradition. You step for a moment into other people's lives as you read, "Grandma always made this fudge for Christmas" or "My mother made sugar kuchen often, but it was a must at Christmas time" or "I triple this recipe for my family every holiday. I even have to hide these [butterhorn rolls] in order to have them for dinner!"

You look in on church socials past and present--fried chicken dinners, spaghetti dinners, picnics, brunches and smorgasbords, described in detail that makes you wish you had been there. And you regret not having known people like Marguerite Gallery, whose coffee cake recipe was contributed by a friend with the note: "Now and then after 8 a.m. mass she would have us stop by and she would put it in the oven. We would savor the aroma while baking and later enjoy the cake and coffee. Fond memories and good times."

One section is devoted to tea traditions, another to Christmas memories, another to anecdotes from the parish and the county. But most of all there is really good food, lots of it.

The book isn't available in most Southern California bookstores, but you can send away for it. Make checks for $21.95 payable to St. Joseph's Catholic Church and send them to Cookbook, 607 W. Green Street, Winterset, Iowa 50273-1641.


One Dish Meals from Popular Cuisines

(Wei-Chuan Publishing: $14.95, 96 pp.)

You can take your choice of three languages and five cuisines when using this book. Tailored to small households (mostly two servings), the recipes explore foods of Italy, Thailand, Mexico, China and Japan. Each recipe is written in English, Spanish and Chinese, and each dish is shown in color photos that speak more clearly than any language.

Four cooks and a squad of translators produced this polyglot effort. The cooks are Victor Chang, chef-owner of Yamaha Japanese restaurant in Pasadena; Ken Kittivech of Chan Dara Thai restaurants; Jia-Tzu Yeh from Taiwan, and Diane Soliz-Martese, who handled both Italian and Mexican foods.

If you want Mexican pork chops tonight, udon in broth tomorrow, Hunan tofu the next day, then fettuccine followed by green curry beef, this is the book for you.



(Danish Sisterhood of America: $14.25, 322 pp.)

I plan to do my Christmas cooking from this book, partly because I am half Danish but mostly because the Christmas goodies--the cookies, cakes, rice puddings, sweet breads and pastries--sound so wonderful.

An old Danish custom is to serve rice pudding before the roast on Christmas Eve, when the main celebration takes place. The idea is to trim appetites so the meat will go farther. A single whole almond is hidden inside the pudding. Whoever gets it receives a gift--a marzipan pig.

The roast may be a goose stuffed with prunes and apples or pork stuffed with the same fruit. The book tells how to prepare these, along with such accompaniments as red cabbage and sugar-browned potatoes, the rice pudding and glogg, the holiday beverage. After dinner, the Christmas tree is lighted, and the celebrants dance around it, then open gifts.

Master bakers, the Danes come into their own at Christmas with scrumptious cakes, cookies, and pastries rich with butter, eggs and almond paste. "Danish" has become a buzzword for sweet rolls, most of which are little like real Danish pastry, as you can learn from making the recipes in this book. Along with Danish apple cake, kringle, marzipan cakes, peppernuts, spritz, klejner and much more, there's a recipe from Copenhagen for cardamom-flavored fruitcake that might stir up new interest in this often maligned holiday specialty.

The Danish Sisterhood of America is a fraternal organization founded in Michigan in 1883. California has 10 lodges, including one in Solvang, the Danish community adjacent to Buellton. Else Lassiter of Solvang Lodge 177 is national president and also editor of the organization's monthly newsletter. She started the cookbook by requesting Danish recipes for that publication.

Recipes from Solvang include several from Lassiter and other sisterhood members, curried cauliflower from the Mollekroen restaurant and Danish layered rum cake (Othello) from Olsen's Danish Village Bakery. Anyone who has enjoyed eating aebleskiver (Danish pancake balls) in Solvang will find four recipes for them, each slightly different.

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