Barbecue author Kent Whitaker steps up to the WWII chow line with Bullets and Bread
How would you go fishing during World War Two if you were serving in the Pacific? According to Chattanooga culinary and BBQ cookbook author Kent Whitaker you would have had several options. “You can use the mounted guns on your PT boat in an attempt to knock down some flying fish… or you could start lobbing hand grenades into the water, wait for the explosion and then gather the dead or stunned fish that float to the top of the water.”
Tanks, airplanes and submarines are the normal stuff of World War Two books. Now there’s a book about the subject that veterans of all wars love to hate… chow! The two fishing examples come from interviews with World War Two veterans conducted by Mr. Whitaker for his newest book.
Bullets and Bread is hitting store shelves across the country and is also available from online retailers. The book’s bread and butter are the memories that WWII veterans shared with the author concerning the best, and worst, chow served to them during the war. “Some of the stories are pretty funny. Many have a Cary Grant and Tony Curtis war movie feel to them,” Whitaker said. “On the other hand, some of the stories are sad, reflective. After all, it was war.”
Bullets and Bread chronicles the massive effort that took place in order for the United States to feed the troops as well as civilians on the home front during the war.
"It was a culinary pulling together in an effort to win the war,” Whitaker said. “Most people know the stories about how factories in the United States went from building cars and radios to building tanks and planes. That same effort took place with food. The United States was transformed into the leader of global food production and packaging. Coke, Spam, doughnuts, coffee and candy companies exploded in growth and popularity during the war. These companies also mastered corporate branding and marketing.”
Bullets and Bread, covers victory gardens, rations on the home front, field rations in Normandy and the Pacific, cooks and bakers schools, food on PT boats, battleships and even special rations developed for pilots and aircrews. Whitaker also includes information on military ration development for both Allied and Axis countries as well as favorite foods of world leaders, generals and even Hollywood stars.
“I collected stories from veterans and I worked with museums and historians across the globe,” Whitaker said. “There’s info in Bullets and Bread from the RAF museum, The USS Alabama, The Royal Catering Corps as well as from museums here in the Chattanooga area. Everything comes down to the people behind the stories. I love the fact that scientists working for the war effort used items from their local Piggly Wriggly grocery store shelves to make military ration prototypes or that the Queen of England was in love with Tabasco brand hot sauce.”
Whitaker admits that Bullets and Bread seems that it is a step away from his normal genre of culinary and barbecue writing but says that in many ways it’s not. “I’ve always tried to include stories, history, insight and more into my cookbooks. None of them are just page after page of recipes,” Whitaker said. “People lived with awareness that the war was being fought overseas, in factories, on the farms and local Victory gardens. Everyone tightened the belt-line. It was a huge team effort.”
Just in case readers and fans of Whitaker’s other books still need a recipe fix the author says that he has them covered. “I included a section with nothing but recipes from military cookbooks, period cookbooks as well as some mock food recipes from the times,” Whitaker said. “They’re not my recipes but are really interesting and fun to read over.”
Kent Whitaker is the author of eight cookbooks, ranging from hometown cooking with a culinary history twist to titles for NASCAR tailgating and barbecue. He has also written and illustrated two books for children, is a trained USCG AUXCHEF, and is the winner of the Emeril Live / Food Network Barbecue Contest.
Bullets and Bread, 9781933909752 2013, History Publishing Company, is in bookstores nationally and is also available online at www.thedeckchef.com, as well as on websites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
From Bullets and Bread - courtesy Jim Stanton
Jim Stanton found this photo of his grandfather, James J. Stanton, RON 15 PT 209 and RON 23 PT 243, hauling some extra chow. Note the bananas hanging from the railing. On the back of the photo is written “243 underway off Romblon with bananas,” in pencil.
Got a Barbecue Addiction?
By Doug Mosley
Bobby Flay seems to always be on TV, whether one of the several Food Network shows on which he is a regular or a morning appearance on NBC’s “Today”. So how in the world did he ever find time to author 12 cookbooks? And its not like those books are some thrown-together, glorified pamphlets of recycled info. Flay’s books are generally really good. And on top of the TV shows and the books, he also has six restaurants. My guess is the guy is actually a cyborg from the future with infinite energy and the ability to multitask at light speed. Either that or he never sleeps, but that’s rather improbable.
Flay’s latest book is Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction ($35, Clarkson Potter, 288 pp.), which he has co-authored with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. (This is the sixth book on which the three have combined). This, like his previous books, is very well done. The recipes are creative but don’t call for a list of obscure ingredients. They’re present in an easy-to-follow manner and the book is well written. There are 150 recipes and 100 full-color pictures, most of the finished dishes. Just like his TV shows and his restaurants, Bobby Flay’s name on anything is literally a guarantee of excellence.
His new book follows a style that I recognize from his others. I did really like the new idea of inserting a chapter on cocktails up front. From there, its chapters on Starters, Salads and Sides; Poultry; Pork; Beef and Lamb; and Fish and Shellfish. He tacks on a chapter on suggested menus at the end and spends the 30 opening pages giving a good rundown on the various types of grills, tips and techniques. If you’re a Bobby Flay fan, this book is a must for you. If you’re not, this is still a really great book.
Speaking of Food Network personalities, Mario Batali’s 2008 book, Italian Grill has now been released in a paperback version ($19.99, Ecco, 246pp.). Its 10 bucks off the hardcover price and aside from a different cover photo than what was used on the hardcover dust jacket, I can’t really tell any difference. But I do know this has been my go-to book when I’m looking for some Italian influences in my dishes. I know of only one other book that was centered specifically on Italian-style outdoor cooking, which is a bit of a surprise when you consider the popularity of Italian foods. Thus, it is admittedly from a small sample size that I say this is the best book on this topic of which I know. Nonetheless, if you didn’t pick it up the first time around, here’s a chance to save a few dollars on a really great book.
Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd portraying two “wild and crazy guys”? I used to think that was as funny as it got, especially since I was a farm boy from rural Illinois and for all I knew everyone from Europe was like those two. Although my world view would soon be broadened, I still chuckle at the thought of Martin and Akroyd’s characters.
With all that in mind, you can imagine how funny I thought it was when I opened a new book and saw pictures of the co-authors on the front dust cover flap. The look in their eyes and the grin on their faces instantly reminded me of Martin and Akroyd. Then I saw their names – Karsten “Ted” Aschenbrandt and Rudolf Jaeger. So now I’m snickering to myself as I read their bios. Then I see they are members of the Grillsportverein (German Grilling Sports Club), so then I’m literally laughing out loud. I could be completely off base, but I would be willing to bet that a weekend spent cooking in the space next to these guys would be more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.
Be that as it may, Aschenbrandt and Jaeger have a new book that has been recently released, The Big Smoker Book ($34.99, Schiffer Publishing, 152 pp.). It is a really well done book with dozens of color pics and lot’s a great recipes, but it is not just a cookbook. The first third of the book is all about equipment – smokers, grills, accessories and how to use them. Sure, many books include introductory chapters that cover the same topic, but many times these seem perfunctory and generic. Aschenbrandt and Jaeger do a far better job on this and it makes for a nice start to the book.
I also liked their take on chapters that differ from the norm. I enjoyed the chapter on breads recipes for the grill/smoker and they followed that with one titled Snacks. The chapter on desserts is well done, too.
Whether they’re two wild and crazy guys or not, Aschenbrandt and Jaeger has turned out a really great book.
You’ve probably noticed from past columns that I really appreciate books on Southern cooking. I think so much of the creativity and techniques that are unique to the genre while at the same time using very basic ingredients is paralleled in great barbecue. Plus, any legitimate book on Southern cooking is going to include barbecue-related content.
I’m really pleased to bring to you this month a book on Southern cooking that is practically an encyclopedia. It is a massive volume, over 700 pages in length and including more than 750 recipes plus another 650 variations. Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking ($45, Gibbs Smith, 720 pp.) by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert is nearly a compendium of these author’s extensive knowledge put to paper after almost 30 years of collaboration.
This book wows you from the moment you pick it up, first because it is really heavy (literally) but second because of the incredible amount of content assembled within. This book wasn’t made beefy by gratuitous pictures and illustrations. There are enough full-color pics to complement the recipes, but it is mainly information that fills these pages. This book really lives up to its title – if you really get through it from cover to cover there is little doubt you will have mastered Southern cooking.
Dupree and Graubert began their work together on the 1985 PBS show, New Southern Cooking, with Dupree in front of the camera and Graubert behind it (as the producer). They later co-wrote “Southern Biscuits” and each kept busy with other culinary projects as well. Dupree won a pair of James Beard Awards for cookbooks she wrote and appeared on television shows on the Food Network, The Learning Channel and others. Dupree, who was trained at London’s Cordon Bleu and mentored by Julia Child, lives in Charleston, S.C.; a favorite son of that city — bestselling author Pat Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides) – wrote the glowing foreword for this book.
With 700-plus pages to fill, the authors undoubtedly didn’t have a worry about cutting this or that to squeeze in under the budget. They cover it all in splendid detail, from starters, salads and soups to entrée and sides to desserts. I really liked how the recipes included the variations, giving you some options to develop as you try and re-try these recipes.
I have to give the authors credit for realizing just what they wrought: in a sub-chapter titled How to Use This Book, they begin with the line, “Any book this size can be intimidating…”. While the cautionary note is valid, it shouldn’t deter any fine reader of the NBBQN from tackling this book. It is superbly written and worth every penny you’ll pay for it. I have no doubt it will become an essential resource on your bookshelf.
Let me finish up this month with a fun book that I know you will truly enjoy. This one is all about creativity and innovation, or maybe the best way to describe it is whimsical. It comes from chef Kevin Gillespie (with A Man, A Can... series author David Joachim) and the book is Fire in My Belly ($40, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 344 pp.).
The whimsy of this book comes from Gillespie’s desire to produce something that appealed to cooks who want to use their fresh, locally sourced. seasonal ingredients but at the same time folds in his humor and sometimes irreverent approach to food. By his own words, this isn’t a cookbook of complex recipes that one might find in top-end restaurants. Instead, Gillespie intended this to appeal with home cooks with a sense of adventure. And it all starts right up front, when you read the names of the chapters on the table of contents page: Food You Thought You Hated, My Version of Southern Food, When I Want To Eat Healthy, Some Like It Hot, Food + Fire = Delicious, Junk Food and Nuts and Bolts. You can tell right away this book is going to be a departure from the norm.
Its probably no surprise to you that I really enjoyed the Food + Fire = Delicious chapter, especially the recipe for Barbecue Chicken with Alabama White Sauce. Gillespie pays appropriate homage to Big Bob Gibson’s for making this dish so widely known and Cornell University for its development of the famed Cornell chicken. He weaves all this into a telling of a story around the dish and finishes with a concisely presented recipe. As a matter of fact, that’s how this whole book is constructed – Gillespie’s stories, whether personal experiences or his knowledge of the food, accompanied by the recipe and a sensible graphical layout with plenty of full-color pics. It makes for probably as interesting of a read as you’re going to get in a cookbook.
Gillespie is probably best known for his run on Bravo’s “Top Chef” television series in 2009 where he was voted fan favorite and reached the final three in the competition. He’s truly a character and a savant simultaneously. An Atlanta native, he turned down an engineering scholarship to MIT to go to culinary school instead, then worked in many of the city’s noteworthy establishments before landing at the outstanding Woodfire Grill. It was there that his culinary chops were fully put on display – especially after an 18-month departure to Portland and return - and Gillespie began generating buzz all over town. He just left Woodfire Grill this past December to work on his newest project: his own new restaurant, Gunshow, which is slated to open this month. If the restaurant is anywhere near as great as his book, we’ll be hearing plenty more about Kevin Gillespie in the near future.
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