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By Katharine Shilcutt
Here's Another Bit of Texana
Cookbooks have long since lived near the bottom of the literary food chain -- ironic, given their content. You're not likely to see their authors on Booknotes, discussing the significance of their tome with Ted on Nightline, or even with Oscar on Sesame Street. That's why San Antonio pathologist and author Deborah Douglas (Gone for the Day: Family Fun in Central Texas) has a little bit more on her mind with her new effort, Stirring Prose: Cooking with Texas Authors (Texas A&M Press, $19.95), a cookbook for those who don't mind a little ink stain on their napkins.
Douglas approached dozens of Texas authors across all genres and asked them to submit a favorite recipe and a short recollection, to which she would add a biographical sketch. The result is a wide swath of culinary and literary tastes from 39 contributors including Kinky Friedman ("Chicken Kolaches") and John Erickson ("Bachelor Cowboy's Delight"). Some of the recipes aren't even worthy of the name, like Larry L. King's "Asian Flu Hot Liquid Life-Saver" -- basically a concoction of hard liquors that will make the most starving of folks forget their hunger. But then that's the whole point of the book, which also includes a complete bibliography for each author.
"I wanted to expose Texas readers to Texas authors who, in many ways, don't receive the attention they're deserving of. I wish I could have doubled the length of the book," Douglas says. "And I encouraged them to write in their own voices and talk about the food. I also wanted a lot of humor and personal anecdotes. Some of the [prose] pieces can even stand on their own."
Douglas, who calls herself a good cook but not an expert, admits frankly that she didn't want to compile Stirring Prose at first, thinking that her serious writing career would be stunted. "I didn't want to be known as the Lady Who Wrote the Cookbook," she says. Nor does she mince words about her clashes with the publisher or the famous names who did not want to participate ("Some were very snooty that they had even been asked, as if it were [beneath] them," she says). But ultimately, Stirring Prose would make a fine addition to any home library -- at least after you figure out whether to shelve it under "Cooking" or "Regional Writers." Or, in the case of the King recipe, "Self-Help."
-- Bob Ruggiero
Deborah Douglas will sign copies of Stirring Prose from 2 to 4 p.m. (tentatively) at Barnes & Noble on September 26 at the Westheimer and Voss location and on September 27 at the Town & Country store.
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