Book Review: Route 66 Cookbook – Comfort Food From the Mother Road
The Route 66 Cookbook, Deluxe Edition: Comfort Food From the Mother Road feels like an ambitious labor of love. I can’t think of a better way to experience a place than with its food and author Marian Clark has given us the opportunity to experience Route 66 from our own kitchens. For an avid home cook and nostalgia nerd like me, this cookbook is perfect.
There’s 2400 miles of food here, all divided by state. There’s a wide variety of recipes included from restaurants on the original 66 route from Chicago to Santa Monica. Ethnic foods like Mexican Squash to pure American diner staples like French toast and any one of a dozen or so burgers are all here. And pie. There’s a lot of pie.
Some recipes are printed restaurant-sized (i.e. huge). For instance, the first ingredient in the Palmer House Hilton’s French Quarter Seafood Gumbo? 2 quarts of oil. No worries, the more manageable Gumbo recipe (with 2 Tbsp oil) for us home cooks is right next to it.
Restaurant, town descriptions, with their relationships with the highway, are included with every recipe. Clark lets us know if the restaurant is still there (at least at the time the book was published). Using old postcards to illustrate the book makes it all feel exactly right to me. Marian Clark is a terrific writer who clearly loves her subject. Her enthusiasm is infectious and makes me want to get in the kitchen. Or on the road.
Some of the fantastic recipes we’ve tried so far:
U Drop Inn’s Banana Cake, p. 110
I’ve been eyeing this cake since I first saw this cookbook in our library a year ago. It screams “traditional diner food” to me. I finally got to bake it and, boy, is it ever worth the wait! Nostalgia alert: I know this might sound funny but I love that it’s a sheet cake, baked in a 9 x 13 cake pan. I can just see it sitting on my grandparents’ kitchen counter top, with that sliding metal lid. Grandpa always had a cake in that thing and this cake lives up to that sweet memory. It’s funny how food can bring up memories like that – the ones you thought were long gone. Some of them come back instantly with the right food.
Black Bean Salad or Salsa
As it turns our favorite way of eating it (with some Monterey Jack cheese) is as a quesadilla filling. Canned or fresh vegetables work great for this.
Potato Pancakes, p. 2
Meiki’s Route 66 Fettuccini Alfredo, Oklahoma City, p. 97
The La Fonda French Toast, p. 140
This French toast is hands down my favorite thing in the book. The texture, the flavor, everything about it is perfect. Talk about traditional diner fare! Full disclosure I used homemade bread for this. This just has to be made with homemade (or bakery) bread. Honest.
I feel right at home and comfortable with these recipes. It’s been fun cooking them. All the extra nostalgia and history included makes me feel like I’m right there on Route 66. I’ve come across a handful of typos, but I haven’t found one in a recipe yet. In fact, the only negative I have for this book is that the index is horrible. Actually, there are two indexes, one by recipe and one by restaurant. One of the first things that caught my eye in the book was the Banana Cake from the U Drop Inn in Texas. I didn’t write down the page number when I saw it, thinking I’d be able to find it again in the index. I couldn’t remember which restaurant or state it was in. The index wasn’t helpful at all. I had to go through each page (albeit gladly) to find it again. I immediately marked all the recipes I wanted to try first. Problem solved.
For a road trip lover and home cook like me, it just doesn’t get any better than this cookbook. Marian Clark has given us a real treasure.