After living for over a decade in California, Chicago area native Shauna Sever and her husband decided to return to their Midwest roots with their two kids in tow. Having been raised around Midwest cooking and then running a food blog when her children were young, Sever is in a great position to give updated takes on classic Midwestern recipes like kolaches and rhubarb sauce. The book is sprinkled with anecdotes from her own family and friends as well as twists like swapping out the traditional cabbage with a mix of greens in savory recipes. Those who have lived in the Midwest, or just like comfort-food baking, will appreciate Sever’s addressing of the classics and her explanation of things like “counter cakes” offer an insight into the foods of the region.
I was eager to get my hands on this cookbook both because I love baking and I’m always curious about the food traditions that are specific to various regions of the country. Like Sever, I’m in the Midwest by way of California which means that some of the recipes (Nebraska Runzas, anyone?) were foreign to me. In her introduction, Sever lays out what she considers the “Five Baking Tenets of the Great Midwest” including baking recipes big enough to share and drawing on both the past and the present to inspire her cooking. As someone who wasn’t born here, it’s interesting to hear some of the “whys” behind how Midwesterners have approached cooking. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the way that Sever promotes hospitality by scaling most recipes for a 9×13 pan or introducing me to the concept of “counter cakes”. As someone whose goal is to find more recipes to become part of my own little family’s traditions, it’s great to have a book that offers up these current takes on recipes that have been handed down over the years.
In terms of the recipes themselves, I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve cooked so far and found the directions relatively straightforward to follow. I appreciate how the book divides recipes not just into what type they are, but also has special sections for holidays and celebrations. I did find that some recipes require slightly different measurements than were listed, but not so much to make it difficult to follow. Sever’s work has encouraged me to try more regional treats and dishes and I’m enjoying cooking (and tasting) my way through her book!