Garden Pea Soup, served with Cheese Bread, both laced with beer and cooked to perfection.
That was my first trial meal as a reviewer of this fun cookbook. However, resist temptation... before you try, or even look at, a single recipe, read author John Schlimm’s introduction. It includes a brief history of beer, a brief family memoir of Straub Brewery, which is part of John’s illustrious heritage, and a delightful perspective on food made with beer.
Many of the recipes have a somewhat Southern-slash-hunter essence, although John lives in Pennsylvania. Squirrel Dinner for Two, Venison Swiss Steak and Fried Pheasant Strips are just some of the wild game recipes that impart this unusual approach to a traditional cookbook.
The cookbook is all-inclusive in the kinds of food and drink covered as well. Twenty-seven chapters, from Appetizers to Floats & Milkshakes make the list. Mouthwatering desserts include such offerings as Greek Christmas Cookies (with one cup of beer) and Chocolate Cannoli (1/3 cup of beer.) In his introduction, Schlimm suggests you experiment with beers other than classic lagers. Even if you aren’t a beer drinker, the flavor and richness imparted by the addition of beer is indisputable. This reviewer made her first batch of beer bread over 35 years ago and has been hooked on the yeasty crunchy crusts created by the addition of a bottle of beer – and I am not a beer drinker! Recipes like Hush Puppies and Fritter Batter can extend your meals in new directions and give the experimenting cook a great opportunity to play with their food.
The recipes are straightforward, with mostly easily found ingredients. Interspersed with the more than 400 recipes are amusing, even chuckle-inducing quotes - “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder” (Anon.) and “The first draught serveth for health, the second for pleasure, the third for shame, the fourth for madness.” (Sir Walter Raleigh, English poet and explorer) Many of the recipes seem to be geared toward those intrepid cooks (and diners) who enjoy spicy food, but certainly adjustment can be made for those of us who prefer their food with a bit less bite.
“The living legend of beer,” as Schlimm calls it, also includes alcoholic mixed drinks in this book, such as Flaming Sake Bomb, (in the “Beer on Fire” chapter) to Irish Cream Float and Beer Tang. Personally, the charm and enjoyment for me will come from trying the food recipes and trying out dark beers and imported brewskies in the recipes. I urge the reader to explore, as I intend to, and expose your palate to Stews (St. Patrick’s Day Stew), Seafood (Leeks and Shrimp) and Pasta (Eggplant and Pasta). The author says, BEER=FUN, and this cookbook is a grand way to explore that premise. After all, “There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking,” according to Ben Franklin.